Rugby Union: `When you have Jonny you take the points'

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The Independent Online
AT LEAST there was no pretence. A spectacular it wasn't, but it was full of tension. Not that you would have thought so when watching Jonny Wilkinson equal the feat of his coach at Newcastle, Rob Andrew, and also the former England fullback Simon Hodgkinson, by landing seven penalties in a Five Nations match.

The England coach, Clive Woodward, said: "Jonny Wilkinson has exceeded my thoughts on how good he might be. Even without his goal-kicking ability - which adds massively to our armoury. I watch him playing as a centre and defensively in that position he is one of the very best players. He also has a great passing ability. He is playing way above what I thought he was capable of."

Wilkinson appeared nerveless as he stepped up each time to punish French indiscretions. "It's great to be kicking them over," said the 19-year- old centre. "I am really pleased with my form. But it would have been great if some of those kicks could have been conversions."

The England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, admitted: "A lot of people will probably criticise me for going for goal at every penalty, but when you have a guy like Jonny Wilkinson in the team you have to take the points when they are on offer."

But Dallaglio did agree that the performance could have been better. "I am pleased with the result," he said, "but I am disappointed with the performance. We seemed to work first and second phase very well, but the third and fourth we seemed to take the wrong options or run out of numbers."

Woodward, while acknowledging England's creativity, said there were chances going begging throughout: "We created genuine chances which we bombed. But this job is about winning and for me this victory sets up a great game against Wales at Wembley next month."

The France coach Jean-Claude Skrela praised the English defence, saying: "Their alignment across the field was excellent and they tackled well. We could not seem to build a platform from which to launch our backs."

The injury toll was fairly high. David Rees, thought at first to have broken his left ankle, is now expected to be out for up to four weeks with a bad sprain. The flanker Richard Hill has a dead leg, while the scrum-half Kyran Bracken, who lasted three minutes more after injuring himself in the 32nd minute, said later: "I may have damaged the medial ligaments in my knee. We will find out later in the week." Rees will almost certainly miss the date with Wales.