Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: 'New Wilkinson' Impresses Jonny

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: 'New Wilkinson' Impresses Jonny

Article excerpt

London Wasps 24

Newcastle Falcons 6

NEWCASTLE fly-half Jonny Wilkinson was impressed after going head to head for the first time with Danny Cipriani, his 21-year-old opposite number currently mounting a strong claim as the 2003 World Cup-winner's heir apparent.

Cipriani came out on top, contributing 14 points, as Wasps beat the Falcons to reach the EDF Energy Cup semi-finals at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on March 22.

"He did well - he did what needed to be done," was the Wilkinson verdict on the young prospect closing in on his England jersey.

"He kicked the goals well and did the right things; he has the ability to ahead of him to develop. It's great for Wasps and great for the country."

Wilkinson, who played the full 80 minutes in his first match since the World Cup final defeat against South Africa in October, added: "It's great to see having spent some time working with Danny in the England camp in the build-up to the World Cup.

"He's a guy who wants to learn who already has a great deal of talent."

It was far from the ideal return for Wilkinson as Newcastle played into a hail and rain storm in the first half.

However, the England star said: "Wasps got one up on us in terms of physicality today."

Wasps former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio is confident Cipriani's early success will not go to the youngster's head. "In the last four weeks he has played against the Irish fly-half Ronan O'Gara, Wales' Stephen Jones down at Llanelli and Jonny today," he said.

"Every week is a real benchmark for him. His education is growing with every game he plays and he's at one of the right clubs where he won't get ahead of himself. We certainly won't allow that.

"He certainly has a maturity beyond his years for a 20 year old."

Director of rugby Ian McGeechan agreed, adding: "He's a talented player which generally means you see the game early.

"The danger is you can see too much too early but what's very good is he is seeing the right options and he's not getting beyond himself.

"He's actively thinking for the team and that, for a talented player, is a very big plus."

European champions Wasps, who have put their indifferent early-season form behind them since their World Cup stars returned, will be chasing their sixth successive win when they continue their Heineken Cup defence against Clermont Auvergne in France next weekend.

"We've won five on the bounce and that's the sort of level you need to go further in tournaments and win trophies," added Dallaglio.

McGeechan paid tribute to the way his side totally contained a Newcastle back-line containing England internationals Wilkinson, Toby Flood, Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait. Newcastle coach John Fletcher, reflecting on his side's second away defeat in six days by Wasps - having also lost to them 35-12 in the Guinness Premiership eight days ago-said: "We've got to become more streetwise around the ball. We know we can play better."

Newcastle, outgunned up front in the first half, introduced their new big-money signing Carl Hayman for his debut at half-time following his arrival from New Zealand on Monday. …

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