English Rugby
Wilkinson eyes new heights
August 12, 2009

Jonny Wilkinson is eyeing new heights with Toulon and England after signing on for a fresh lease of life in the French Top 14.

Having left Newcastle after 12 seasons, Wilkinson attended Martin Johnson's first England training camp of the season at Twickenham this week with designs on setting high standards on the field.

Injury-free after recovering from the dislocated knee-cap that ended his season in October last year, his move to Toulon has refreshed his outlook on the game and he's raring to go as his side prepare to get their season underway against Stade Francais on Friday.

"I feel I have spent my life playing it safe, not allowing the unknown and operating between six and eight or nine out of 10," Wilkinson said. "If I operate between six and eight I will always be okay because sometimes when you push for 10, you open up the door to drop to a four.

"But I don't want to finish my career and say 'I did okay, I operated within myself and well done me'. Now I want to push for 10. I stood at the bottom of the mountain and played some fabulous rugby. But when you are halfway up you start looking at the top, which looks great, but you also look down and part of you thinks that staying here is not a bad idea. This change is what I have been waiting for."

Wilkinson will likely come up against some familiar faces in the Stade side, with England's James Haskell and Tom Palmer in line to start after moving to Paris from Wasps. Haskell was called to England training this week despite missing out on Johnson's Elite Player squad, and was impressed by Wilkinson's condition.

"I just complimented him on his tan!" Haskell said. "I said to him that I hope the reason he had such a good tan was because he hadn't been on his usual training routines and that we could catch him napping! But I don't think that will be the case. He looked in very good shape.

"If you are going to play for a new team and play in the first game, what better opposition than Toulon. From what I hear, the place down there is like a cauldron. (Wasps head coach) Shaun Edwards used to talk about hostile environments - well I think it'll be a hostile one down there. They've recruited so many players so it's a big challenge for me and the team, especially considering we have had a shorter pre-season than normal."

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