Wilkinson thriving at Toulon

England outside-half Jonny Wilkinson has admitted to thriving on the continuity of game time and being injury-free since his arrival at French first division club Toulon.

Commenting in his column for the Times newspaper, the player who won the 2003 World Cup for England with a last gasp drop goal also acknowledged that he was still nowhere near his best.

“This is exciting,” he said. “It is years since I have had any continuity in my rugby, but since my season has started here in Toulon I have finally been able to put together a run of games.

“We have played nine league matches, I have started seven of them, been rested for one and come off the bench in the other. Add in two pre-season games and tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup match against Castres and that will take me past 10.

“Since the 2003 World Cup, I think the best run I’d had was six in 2004.”

The 70-time capped playmaker added: “Not for a minute would I tempt fate by suggesting that the injury days are behind me—I still approach every game and training session as if it might be my last—but after such a long period of shut-out, the door is now open and I am ever keener to make the most of every opportunity.”

“People want to know how I rate my form, but I almost always say about six out of ten.
When I get a bit farther down the road, I might get as far as 6-and-a-half.

“Or maybe not. There is so much more that I am shooting for here; I am still nowhere near where I want to be.”

Wilkinson, who signed for Toulon from Newcastle in the off-season, added that it had been “a fascinating learning experience in France”.

“You start really to want it, but the rugby just doesn’t come exactly when you want it to.

“That is where it is different to being back at home in the Premiership in England, where I spent 12 years. There, I knew what the coaches wanted and what the team wanted to do and, as I’d played a lot of rugby before, when I came back from injuries, I found I could just slot back in.

“This time round, apart from three games for Newcastle at the start of last season, I hadn’t played since April 2008. And it has not been as simple as cutting and pasting previous experience from England and applying it to France.

“That is why I call it a long road; it is taking longer to use my experience, to apply it to France and work out what works and what doesn’t.”

The outside-half also admitted to craving further international honours.

“The autumn internationals loom next month; it would obviously be great to be involved there, but international rugby is still a long way from my mind.

“People ask why I am staying fit this time and not before. No one can be absolutely sure, but luck plays a big part and it helps to be with a team who are executing. I just hope it keeps on going.”—AFP

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