Wilkinson says England have learnt from defeat

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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson admits England's defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield two years ago was one of the most painful experiences of his rugby career.

The England fly-half broke the world record for international points on that filthy afternoon in Edinburgh but there was nothing else for him to smile about.



England, World Cup finalists only five months previously, were desperate. They were beaten 15-9 and Wilkinson was hauled off with 11 minutes remaining.



To compound his misery, Wilkinson was then dropped for only the second time in a 12-year international career as then England coach Brian Ashton turned to Danny Cipriani.



But, two years on, Cipriani is now persona non grata and bound for Melbourne while Wilkinson is heading back to Murrayfield, convinced he is a stronger player for the setback.



"The most painful lessons are often the most powerful and for me that is definitely the case," said Wilkinson.



"That was a big experience and it has done the world of good for me.



"I have spent much of the time since then injured on the sidelines but that doesn't change the fact that you have to take heed of those lessons.



"The game a couple of years ago was a massive learning curve and it taught us that you need to go out there to play.



"You can't expect to just build a game solely from what you have planned on paper.



"We tried that against Scotland with the conditions and the weather and they did a great job of smothering us.



"We didn't push the situation hard enough to earn the right to win that game. We played a game that was stifled and we ended up losing the game and quite rightly so.



"I have learned it is all very well to know it on paper but I have got to put it into practice on the field."



And yet, there are many who would argue England have not actually moved on very far from the one-dimensional, prescriptive rugby that did for them at Murrayfield that day.



Wilkinson was replaced because Ashton, desperate for someone to "open the door" and end the bombardment of kicking, felt Charlie Hodgson the most likely to do so.



Wilkinson has had former team-mates claiming he is not a natural playmaker and decision-maker and questioning whether he is the best man to release England's potentially-exciting back division.



Matt Dawson said recently: "He can play in the way that has been planned on a flip chart in team meetings but, if it comes down to him to work out on the hoof what options to take, more often than not he will kick - and miss opportunities to attack."



Wilkinson does not dismiss the criticism out of hand - "they must see it to say it, or have a reason for saying it" - but he is confident the pivotal midfield relationship with Riki Flutey is developing well.



"One of the big things for us is communicating what we see of the whole field. We missed some chances against Ireland, which we didn't realise until we watched the video," said Wilkinson.



"The structure is still a bit new to myself as well and maybe I am a bit tied in to seeing what I am doing and likewise for him so we are trying to make sure we see more of the field.



"But he knows what I am looking for now and I am trying to understand every day what he is looking for. We have had a couple of good chats this week."



Just as was the case two years ago, England travel to Murrayfield with their Six Nations title hopes still alive to face a Scotland team on the back of three straight defeats.



The one big difference is the two teams are under new management, with former England coach Andy Robinson now in charge of Scotland while Martin Johnson has taken charge at Twickenham.



It does not take much for the Scots to be fired up for a home game against England - Steve Borthwick criticised the Scots for gloating at the post-match function in 2008.



Wilkinson knows just what to expect from a Scotland side coached by Robinson, and it is not all fire and brimstone.



"He played the way he coaches. There is no facade," said Wilkinson.



"He was physical, he was intense, he was skilful and he mixed it every time he went out there. As a coach he does exactly the same thing but this time he is able to really impart a huge amount of that rugby brain and experience over many years and that is why he is a good man for the job.



"We need to go in with a level of inner strength that is capable of dealing with everything on the field - and off the field."



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