Wilkinson calm in face of adversity

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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson always believed that his latest injury – a sprained ankle, suffered during England's first serious World Cup training session in France – would clear up in good time for him to play a part in the pool stage, but if his confidence had turned out to be misplaced, he would not have been straight on the phone to the Samaritans. "It's not because I don't care," he said yesterday, "but because I deal with my setbacks in a different way now. There has been a 180 degree spin in my thinking over the last couple of years."

Back in the outside-half position for this weekend's meeting with Samoa, the most horizontal of rugby heavyweights was at his most philosophical. "If the injury had ruled me out of the tournament, at least I'd have been able to tell myself that I'd done everything possible to prepare in the right way," he remarked. It was a little like a Grand National jockey saying: "I won't mind too much if I go apex over base at the first, because I put the saddle on correctly." Wilkinson moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

The point, one supposed, was this: the uptight Jonny of old has disappeared, to be replaced by a Wilkinson far more accepting of the slings and arrows of sporting fortune. "I came here wanting to have a big impact, to be involved in everything, to lift the England environment with the help of the other senior players," he said. "It is still the case that the toughest part of this game is sitting on the sidelines, so when the injury happened I was disappointed. But instead of pulling my hair out, as I would once have done, I immediately thought: 'Relax, don't get het up. I can't pre-empt what the scan will reveal or what the prognosis will be. Let's wait for the information and deal with it in the most positive way.'"

Wilkinson's midfield partnership with Olly Barkley will be brand new, but he saw no reason why it should not succeed. "We are two guys used to talking, running the game, bossing people around and it's great to be playing with him," Wilkinson said. "Maybe the two of us have been brought up in the same generation of rugby and see the game very similarly and Olly showed in the way he played in the first game that he's switched on.

"Normally, I'm quick to put across my point of view in team meetings, but I find I don't have to when Olly is speaking. I think we share a lot when it comes to rugby instinct."

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