Jonny Wilkin­son tells Eng­land to ‘re­set bar’

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

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

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