Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jonny's Told to Cut out Big Hits as He Prepares for Twickenham Return

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jonny's Told to Cut out Big Hits as He Prepares for Twickenham Return

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

JONNY WILKINSON has been ordered to keep himself out of harm's way ahead of his latest international comeback at Twickenham on Saturday. The fly-half 's career has been ravaged by injury since lifting the game's greatest prize in 2003 and he has yet to feature for England under Martin Johnson -- a situation which has prompted the team's bosses to preach the importance of self-preservation. Defence coach Mike Ford admits this new strategy depends on the World Cup winning outside half trusting his fellow players and refraining from attempting to halt every Wallaby attack with one of his thunderous tackles.

Wilkinson will be operating at No10 against Australia in a Twickenham international for the first time since the 2008 Six Nations championship after a dislocated knee ruined last season's campaign and convinced him to seek a new challenge with Toulon in France.

The fly-half, who has amassed a record 1,032 points in 70 England appearances, returns to the team to find new faces at scrum half and inside centre, with Danny Care and Shane Geraghty expected to fill those key roles when the team is announced later today.

Ford accepts that this unfamiliarity could see Wilkinson taking on too much defensive work, but two weeks of training ground routines have been specifically designed to keep the No10 out of unnecessary contact.

Ford explained: "Jonny is our best defender and so, at times, you want him to cover things. You always gee up the back row to get across and do their job but I have seen times at Toulon where if Jonny hadn't been there, the opposition would have scored.

"You think 'Blimey, is it worth carrying this on', because it could be too late to change him but I believe the more trust he has in his own players, the more he will stay in his position.

"It's his desire that I am talking about, he wants to cover every position and scenario. As the training sessions have gone on, that trust has grown and we have talked about the issues which could unfold and it's like a jig-saw unfolding in front of Jonny.

"I caught Jonny at training covering the open side and then shooting back down the blind and I told him we had it covered and explained why. …

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