HE’S HAD some good days in the Six Nations, but Jonny Wilkinson’s greatest came in Dublin eight years ago when England clinched a Grand Slam with an impressive 42-6 win over Ireland, writes Paul Morgan.
A repeat of that clash arrives again this month as England conclude their championship campaign at Lansdowne Road (now called the Aviva Stadium) – and have a chance to win their first Grand Slam since their 2003 triumph.
“I’ll never forget that match in Dublin – it was a big day,” says Wilkinson. “We got off to a good start and managed to keep the pedal down, a strategy that will stand us in good stead again this year. You’re rarely in that position against a team like Ireland. It was the culmination of lessons learnt and lots of desire.”
England’s World Cup triumph followed later in 2003, but the wheels came off in the subsequent years and Ireland have won six of the past seven Tests between the two sides.
“No one in the England camp underestimates how tough it’ll be to win there,” says Wilkinson of the Test on Saturday 19 March. “It’s a sensational end to the championship. It’ll be a big atmosphere and Ireland always bring that passion. The Irish players play even better at home and even better in big situations.”
Wilkinson, who will most likely have to settle for an appearance off the bench with Toby Flood England’s first-choice fly-half, is also looking forward to the chance to come up against his great friend Brian O’Driscoll.
“The last decade has presented amazing times for Brian and I, even if he’s found himself on the field a little more. He’s avoided a few less injuries,” he says. “He’s still going strong. He’s a real leader and a big part of why they play well.”
And while Ireland won’t be going for a Grand Slam this time as they were in 2003, Wilkinson is sure they’ll still be competitive.
“That will be irrelevant once the game kicks off. It won’t affect their desire to beat England. They’re an exceptional side and will be no more exceptional than in the final game.”
This article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine. To find a newsagent which sells Rugby World in UK visit http://www.ipcmedia.com/availability/index.php?code=rugby
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