Wilkinson's shoulder problem persists

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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson is so focused on getting fit for England's upcoming Six Nations campaign that he has not even watched his World Cup winning drop-goal on video yet.

The Newcastle fly-half is battling to overcome a neck problem that he suffered during England's surge to glory in Sydney last November and subsequently aggravated in a Zurich Premiership encounter with Northampton on 28 December, the only competitive outing he has had since returning from Australia.

The England coach, Clive Woodward, is desperately hoping that Wilkinson will be back in action when his side begin the defence of their European crown against Italy in Rome on 15 February.

But the 24-year-old is not totally confident of meeting that deadline and the nature of his injury leaves him unsure precisely when he will make a return to full training.

"It could be tomorrow, it could be next week," Wilkinson told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme. "When I first suffered the injury I thought I would be back within a fortnight but it didn't happen. There has been a possibility of making every game since but that day hasn't come around yet. I am still training but inevitably there is going to be some weakness and muscle wasting which I will have to make up when I get back."

Wilkinson revealed that the major problem stems from his neck and is affecting nerve endings in his right shoulder but he expects one day just to "wake up" and be able to train properly.

The problem did not stop Woodward naming Wilkinson as vice-captain to the new England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, for the Italy game, England's first full Test outing since the World Cup final that Wilkinson has not seen again despite his memorable match-winning effort.

"I haven't watched any of the games," he admitted. "I dreamed about being in that situation more beforehand and the only thing that's happened since is that I have had fewer nightmares about it.

"That day has gone now and we have to move on to the next job. It is frustrating not getting the chance to play many matches recently but I am excited about the challenge of trying to get back into the England squad again.

"I am sure Lawrence will be a positive influence as captain. He has been a fantastic back-up to Martin Johnson in the past and is a great figure to have leading the team."