England Rugby
Wilkinson primed for World Cup
ESPNscrum Staff
August 28, 2011
England's Jonny Wilkinson strikes a familiar pose, England training session, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey, England, August 4, 2011
Wilkinson looks to have secured the England fly-half berth ahead of the World Cup © Getty Images

England's talismanic fly-half Jonny Wilkinson is relishing the chance to repeat his 2003 heroics on antipodean soil.

The England fly-half's mood was helped considerably by yesterday's emphatic 20-9 victory over Ireland in Dublin - their first since the World Cup-winning year of 2003. Wilkinson was so obsessed with his personal quest for perfection during that tournament that he was asked by one journalist whether he was turning into a "basket case".

Even after England had won the Webb Ellis trophy, Wilkinson found it hard to let go and he enjoyed a relatively early night while the rest of the team celebrated long into the next day. But eight years, a catalogue of injuries and another World Cup final appearance later and Wilkinson has a new perspective on life and on the precious opportunities that lie ahead.

England kick off their campaign against Argentina on September 10 and Wilkinson has learned to relish every moment of the adventure. "I am excited. I am content with everything," said Wilkinson. "I have got the ambition and enthusiasm like I have never had before.

"That comes with age and finding the balance in your life - the right way to attack the important stuff, to embrace every opportunity and not hang on to the worry of failing. To go into this World Cup like that is a nice way to feel."

Wilkinson, who was only 20 when he played for England at the 1999 World Cup, is now 32 and one of the veterans in the current squad. But playing alongside the likes Manu Tuilagi, who has enjoyed an explosive introduction to international rugby with two tries in as many Tests, is keeping Wilkinson on his toes.

"These guys are keeping me very young. It is a young group but an ambitious and energetic group and it has had a big effect on me," said Wilkinson. "I feel I am moving forward daily. There is this young group coming through who are going to be leading the rugby as we know it."

England won two of their three warm-up Tests, at home to Wales and away to Ireland but it was the manner of their Dublin victory that has built confidence. Wilkinson had a relatively quiet day but the new centre partnership of Tuilagi and Mike Tindall was a success and James Haskell impressed at No.8.

England adapted well when injuries hit and forced them into a reshuffle, with Courtney Lawes moving to blindside and Tom Croft to the openside. Delon Armitage scored England's second try while Chris Ashton was in the sin-bin and a lung-bursting defensive effort kept Ireland out.

"Winning is a great feeling and it helps move you forward. A good scenario to get on the plane is to have some confidence in your performance and in each other," said Wilkinson. "The pre-season has been about getting some work under the belt and making sure we are on a good platform, ready to launch into a big tournament."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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