Famed for the accuracy of his left boot, Wilko has held the world on his shoulders ever since that cup winning kick in 2003. Rugby World caught up with him in Toulon to chat about being scared of practical jokes, Room 101 and his best moments.
RUGBY WORLD: What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard on the pitch?
JONNY WILKINSON: One of the strangest things involved Phil Greening in the early 2000s. He was playing against Newcastle (for Wasps) and whistled through his fingers, pretending he was the referee. I think he did it twice and the second time we were breaking down the touchline, but all the players stopped when they heard the whistle. He was heavily warned by the referee.
RW: Who are the jokers in the England squad?
JW: James Haskell is always joking around. He’s the one to go to if you want funny stories.
RW: How about practical jokes?
JW: Practical jokes scare the hell out of me. We did this thing for Sport Relief and one of the guys had his trousers pulled down on TV. It scared the wits out of me and now I spend most of my time with stomach cramps because I’ve done my trousers up so tightly!
RW: If your house was on fire, what three things would you save?
JW: Good question. I’d like to say I’d be straight out, but there’s a picture above my bed I bought a long time ago that’s got a lot of sentimental value. Maybe a couple of guitars so I could sit watching the house burn down and sing a sombre tune.
RW: Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?
JW: I get claustrophobic at times so a mechanic or lift engineer to tell me everything would be alright.
RW: If a film was made of your life, who would you want to play you?
JW: Probably me. I’ve still not got rid of my controlling obsession so I’d be worried about being represented in the right way and would want to do it myself.
Memories, Audience participation and life outside rugby…
RW: What are the best and worst things about living in Toulon?
JW: I could go on forever about the best things – the atmosphere, the weather, the people, the rugby, the port scenery, everything. In terms of the worst, there’s a bit of traffic in the morning and I’ve now become intolerant to cold weather!
RW: Any phobias?
JW: Heights. Being stuck in a lift, now we’ve talked about that. And audience participation, the type you get at stage shows. In school, we had three occasions like that and I got selected all three times. I tried different approaches, apart from getting up and running out of the building, and I still got picked every time.
RW: What’s the best game you’ve played in?
JW: Some of the most recent are freshest in my memory, but I remember one we lost at London Irish when I was at Newcastle (38-12, 2007). We ran the ball from everywhere and it was just one of those games where you never stopped for 80 minutes. We were just running and trying things, and that’s what makes you love the sport of rugby.
RW: What would you put in Room 101?
JW: It would have to be audience participation. It’s still on my mind.
RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
JW: The ability to stop thinking and live exactly where you are; to not worry about the past or the future and just enjoy where I am right now.
RW: Have you got any holiday plans?
JW: I’m going to Spain for a few weeks to get away from the pressures of the season, but the training never stops! I’ll do something every day.
RW: What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?
JW: Lots of things. I want to have a fulfilling life. I’ve lived a very selfish life up to now, so would do more for the people around me.
RW: What couldn’t you live without?
JW: The chance to do what I love doing. There’s always another weekend.
RW: What about when you retire?
JW: I try not to think about that.
RW: How would you like to be remembered?
JW: As a good team player.
Check out two sports greats being challenged…
Learn more about Jonny’s teammates at Toulon…
…And also at England…