Wilkinson speaks out on players' 'naive' conduct


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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson has described his England team-mates as naive to think their World Cup drinking session would go unreported and believes some of them arrived at the tournament in the wrong frame of mind.

England's 2003 World Cup-winning fly-half made the observations in his autobiography Jonny, which was published yesterday. In the book Wilkinson said he was ready to walk away from England last year after losing his starting place to Toby Flood and launched a withering attack on the balls used in the last World Cup and the tournament organisers who defended them.

Wilkinson, who is famously dedicated to abstinence and training to levels that can be detrimental to his physical and mental well-being, examined the fallout of the now infamous night out in Queenstown, which led to pictures of stand-in captain Mike Tindall and others looking the worse for wear during their "Mad Midget Weekender", and said his colleagues had been naive.

"What I cannot understand is the naivety of people going out to the extent that they did and it not crossing their minds it would find its way back to the media. What is required is individual responsibility."

Wilkinson was more forthright when it came to playing matters. He said he was disappointed that individuals were playing for themselves, attempting to showboat and lacking respect for their opponents. He was so annoyed he decided, unusually, to voice his concerns at a team meeting.

What Wilkinson could do little about, however, was his kicking, which was wayward throughout the tournament. At the time he declined to blame the Gilbert ball. In the book, however, he has unleashed his frustration, explaining how the numbered match balls each had such differing characteristics that he and fellow England fly-half Toby Flood wrote notes for each one corresponding to their flight path.

"The organisers claim that all the balls are the same, but they're not... My feeling is that it's just horribly unprofessional and an extremely bitter pill to swallow that, at the biggest tournament in the sport, we're having to deal with this."