Man with a Mission

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), June 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

Man with a Mission


Byline: Rugby Union

Jonny Wilkinson aims to strike fear into the hearts of Australian supporters by declaring he will be a man on a mission when England clash with the Wallabies in Melbourne tomorrow.

The 24-year-old's place-kicking may have been typically brilliant as he slotted four penalties and a drop goal to seal England's win over the All Blacks last weekend, but in swirling winds and driving rain he struggled to impose his authority on the game.

Wilkinson's mistakes were uncharacteristic, but often meant England had difficulty in clearing their lines, succeeding only in inviting further pressure from the All Blacks.

Always the perfectionist, Wilkinson admitted he had been hard on himself for a "disappointing" Wellington display, but the desire to make amends against Australia helped shake that post-match hangover.

"I don't think I did myself proud out there," he said. "I did everything I could, but on the day I didn't perform. I made a few mistakes.

"Being involved in a decision-making position you take a lot of responsibility and accountability for the way the team plays as a whole, in attack especially. In an attacking sense that wasn't one of our best games.

"You do beat yourself up for a few days, but then you start feeling very grateful for having another chance this weekend.

"At the moment I am a bit disappointed, but the overriding factor is that I am enthusiastic about this weekend."

Even without that added determination to make amends, Wilkinson has been Australia's nemesis over the last three years, scoring 60 points in England's three successive Test victories.

The Newcastle man's contribution has been crucial, given the Wallabies outscored England by six tries to three in all three Cook Cup encounters, but lost them all.

Wilkinson was also first-choice fly-half for the Lions and scored 36 points in the three Tests against Australia, but his memories of the Telstra Dome will not be pleasant. …

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