Jonny Wilkinson tells England to ‘reset bar’
LONDON: England great Jonny Wilkinson said on Tuesday the “bar had to be reset at all levels” if the national side were once again to become a global force. Last week saw Stuart Lancaster stepped down as England coach after the team became the first World Cup host nation to be knocked out of the tournament in the initial group phase last month.
Lancaster’s exit led England’s Rugby Football Union to initiate a worldwide search for a new head coach.
But Wilkinson, the drop-goal hero of England’s extratime World Cup final win over Australia in Sydney back in 2003, said there was more to making the national side successful again than just a change of coach. Former fly-half Wilkinson said current England squad members would need to demonstrate “a desire which is almost impossible to keep down”.
The 36-year-old was speaking at Buckingham Palace after he was formally upgraded to a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) — one rank below a knighthood in the British honours system.
Wilkinson, who received his latest honour from Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, added that closing the gap between Europe’s elite and the southern hemisphere teams who filled all four semifinal places at the World Cup would require “resetting the bar at all levels, from grass roots up”.
He added: “But that bar has to be high, and then you have got to ensure that the enjoyment that goes with it is even higher too, so that kids want to go out there and do it, so kids see this as normal.
“So, ‘ normal’ for kids, and for players in the Premiership league, ‘normal’ becomes what we used to see as ‘exceptional’,” explained Wilkinson, England’s record points scorer, who retired from all professional rugby union last year after helping club side Toulon complete a French Top 14 and European Cup double.
Wilkinson, now a kicking coach at Toulon and a media pundit, said he had no definite ideas on who should succeed Lancaster. “I still look at it from a player’s perspective,” explained Wilkinson, who quit Test rugby in 2011. “I don’t see myself as a coach, I see myself as a player who doesn’t play any more.” — AFP