Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wrap Up Wilko in Cotton Wool; 'Forget Beckham and Owen, There's No One in British Team Sport Who Can Touch Him for Courage and Commitment'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wrap Up Wilko in Cotton Wool; 'Forget Beckham and Owen, There's No One in British Team Sport Who Can Touch Him for Courage and Commitment'

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

THE hero was last out for the media interrogation at HQ and looked a wreck. Feeling as stiff as a board with a swelling developing around one eye and an ugly weal flanking the other, he apologised for his tardiness but he'd had to do the post-match dope test.

We resisted the temptation to ask Jonny Wilkinson exactly what wonder drug he was on after his latest single-booted assault on the record books at Twickenham but, in his battered state, it actually seemed more tempting to round up a gang of front row forwards to mug him, bind him up in cotton wool and not free him until next year's World Cup.

Because seeing him like this, having once again marvelled at how his rarest of talents comes packaged with such astonishing, ferocious commitment out there, instilled not only familiar admiration but a sense that here is someone who almost needs protection from himself.

It had been another demonstration of how the obsessive in him has enabled Wilkinson to become just about the complete rugby footballer.

That intense streak informs everything he does, from the laser accuracy of his kicking to the murderous nature of the hits he both makes and takes in defence and attack.

On Saturday, he achieved the astounding feat of seeming to drain the game of any sense of anticipation, orchestrating a weirdly lowkey feel among the crowd, by his sheer excellence.

One drop goal to ease the path, a perfect chip through for Will Greenwood's demoralising early score, metronomic penalty strikes to strangle the life out of the game and then a devastating little break just after the interval for the try which rendered the whole contest obsolete.

The final reckoning? Thirty points, a record in the fixture's 108 editions. He had just become the first Englishman to sweep past 500 points and had done so younger than anyone anywhere before him in only his 34th Test.

To put it into context, even the All Black machine, Grant Fox, only achieved 500 when he was 29.

Wilkinson, we keep having to remind ourselves, is not 23 until next month.

It's almost unreal. …

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