Jonny the genius passes first French test with ease

You couldn't quite call him the coolest guy in the ground. Not beside the Mediterranean, with temperatures still in the high 20s at 11pm.

Yet with 17 points from that trusty left boot, a couple of audacious long touch kicks and his inherent ability to put his team where they would like to be, Jonny Wilkinson reminded his new audience at Toulon that, even at 30 and after almost a year out, plenty of his genius remains.

Wilkinson guided a nervous Toulon to a 22-22 draw with Stade Français on the opening night of the French season. It was an individual performance that offered hope not just for the ambitious French club but, perhaps, England too.

The control Wilkinson has always exuded in his own life remains manifest upon the rugby field; unflustered, calm and decisive, the fly-half negotiated his latest comeback with the aplomb to be expected of a World Cup winner.

Four penalty goals, a drop goal and a conversion was his haul on a hot night at Stade Mayol and his new fans loved it. He lined up goal-kicks in almost reverential silence and even those attempts that missed (two penalties and a drop) were applauded. Looking tanned and fit, as befits a resident of the south of France in August, Wilkinson signaled that his contribution to Toulon's cause is unlikely to be insignificant.

Stade's Australian coach, Ewen McKenzie, admitted as much, saying: "At least he showed he was human by dropping the ball at the end. But he will be a key man and will do a great job for them. I am glad we played them now because I am sure he'll improve in terms of generating attacks."

Afterwards, Wilkinson was almost buried by a cluster of microphones. He said: "This is a big experience, something I need to work to get used to. There are a lot of different bits to take on board. That is going to be the strength of how I contribute to this team – how quickly I pick that up.

"I didn't feel before the game I was kicking that well. You could see with a couple of wider ones I wasn't really troubling the target but thankfully the drop goal went over. It was just a shame we had the lead most of the game and to have held on would have been a big thing. But we have a lot of lessons we must learn from the draw."

Switching to French, Wilkinson went on: "It was a great experience, the atmosphere was fantastic. I know it is necessary I learn a lot and do it quickly. It's very physical but that's the same as in England. That's not a problem for me. I'm in good health and ready to play."

Two other potential inclusions in Martin Johnson's England plans this winter also made their French debuts in the game. The former Wasps Tom Palmer and James Haskell did enough to impress their coach, McKenzie.

"I have been very happy with their progress, they have fitted in really well," he said. "Palmer will be a great threat at set-pieces and he looks to have good discipline."

Palmer, the lock who was the more impressive of the two, said the match had been played in "an amazing atmosphere" and added: "I thought I did all right, the line-outs went pretty well. But it was a difficult game to get into, with so much kicking. And it was so hot – I reckon I lost half a stone out there through sweat."

Haskell, the young flanker whose move raised serious concerns within English rugby, was shown a yellow card. He stood out chiefly for wearing a ridiculous white headguard and white boots and he show-ponied accordingly for most of the first half. He improved a little afterwards, but he clearly has much still to do.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution