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Legends of the Game: Jonny Wilkinson
A true hero of English rugby
Posted Aug 03, 2011 by Legends
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Since 2003, one man has been referred to as ‘World Cup Hero’ on so many occasions that you could almost be forgiven for thinking that was his actual name. An extraordinary talent and one of the most instantly recognisable faces in the game of rugby union, Jonny Wilkinson is this week’s legend.
When Wilkinson signed for the Newcastle Falcons at the tender age of 18 and having just left school, he couldn’t go too far wrong with the man who would be coaching him at Kingston Park. Rob Andrew, the former England fly half who scored 396 points for his country in 71 appearances, was the man in charge and Wilkinson went on to lift the 1997/98 Premiership trophy with the Falcons in his first season.
Wilkinson received his first international call-up after playing just an hour of professional rugby for Newcastle, making it onto the bench against Scotland, before actually getting onto the field in April 1998 against Ireland at Twickenham.
2003 could not have gone any better for Wilkinson. He helped England to the Six Nations championship, and then, well, everybody remembers what happened at the 2003 World Cup – but just for those Australians reading – he nailed a last minute drop goal in extra time to seal the World Cup for England, the first Northern Hemisphere side to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.
However, after that World Cup, Wilkinson’s career hit the dark stages with injury after injury causing him to miss so much of the next few seasons. Problems included the neck, arm, shoulder and ankle and it was nearly three years until he pulled on the England jersey again.
But he was by no means finished as an international player. Wilkinson broke Scott Hastings’ record at the 2007 World Cup in France, leading England to the final and becoming the highest point scorer in the history of World Cup rugby – against the Australians.
In May 2009, after falling down the pecking order at Newcastle because of his injuries, Wilkinson saw the opportunity to resurrect his club career, moving to French side Toulon in time for the 2009/10 season.