Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wilko Returns with a Spring in His Step

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wilko Returns with a Spring in His Step

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent

[bar] ONNY WILKINSON and Jonathan Sexton are at different ends of their careers but both carry the same heavy weight of expectation as the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup come to thrilling climaxes in London.

Wilkinson will spearhead Toulon's bid for the Amlin trophy -- their first silverware in 20 years -- in tonight's final against Biarritz at the Twickenham Stoop in what could be one of his last appearances on English soil.

"It's a joy to get back to England to play, especially just across the road from headquarters," said the fly-half, who will be 33 next week.

"I have always enjoyed playing at the Twickenham Stoop. It's a great ground, and is also the area where I grew up as a kid. It's a different way of life in France, and that kind of transposes itself in the way the game is played. It has been a joy for me but it is tough to put into words."

Wilkinson, who retired from England duty after the World Cup having won 91 caps, is used to being under the spotlight and is already a rugby great -- a status that many expect Sexton to achieve, particularly if he leads Leinster to a third Heineken Cup triumph in four years when they face Ulster at Twickenham tomorrow.

Sexton has 29 caps and has been trying to take control of the Ireland No10 jersey only for coach Declan Kidney to keep recalling veteran Munster outside-half Ronan O'Gara. However, another Leinster triumph would significantly increase Sexton's standing.

The 26-year-old said: "It's something I'm asked about all the time. There is a bit of a perception that I play better for Leinster than Ireland. I've had some brilliant days for Ireland and some not so good ones. It was the same with Leinster early on. It is not always easy for an outside-half to control things straight away. You have to learn how to play as well as how those around you play, and Test rugby is different from the provincial game. …

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