Tuesday 23 January 2018

Wilkinson dreaming of Euro glory

Gavin Mairs

JONNY WILKINSON claims that his attempt to win a first European title -- when Toulon face Cardiff Blues in the Amlin Challenge Cup final tomorrow -- is more important to him than England's 2003 World Cup triumph.

While Wilkinson will be remembered forever for his extra-time dropped goal that clinched victory over Australia in the World Cup final seven years ago, the out-half insists he is interested only in what is happening now.

Toulon's failure to clinch a Top 14 final place, after defeat by Clermont Auvergne, has heightened Wilkinson's desire to leave Marseille with his first winners' medal since Newcastle lifted the Powergen Cup six years ago.

So where does Wilkinson (30) rank success on the European stage compared with Six Nations titles in 2000 and 2001 and the Grand Slam in 2003?

"Everything that has been and gone has been embraced and then let go," he said after staying in Toulon to prepare for the final instead of joining England's pre-tour training camp.

"I am not one to rest on my laurels or former glories. The next game is all you have got. For me there is nothing more important right now than trying to make the end of this season a success."

It is 13 years since Wilkinson made a try-scoring European debut as an 18-year-old in Newcastle's 72-24 victory over Edinburgh in a Challenge Cup pool match at Kingston Park. Most of his time at Newcastle was spent fighting Premiership relegation, but he says he felt no jealous tinges when clubs such as Leicester and Wasps were lauded as European champions.

"Of course I watched those teams with admiration and respect for the way they played in those big games, with the likes of Leicester going against the big French teams," said Wilkinson.

"But I have always wanted to be building something. Winning is a huge part of that, but just because you haven't won anything at the end of the season, you can't discount the effort put in by other teams at the bottom of the league who have had to fight like mad and overcome huge adversity just to hang in there."

Wilkinson hopes his strong finish to the season with Toulon will reap dividends on England's tour, after a troubled Six Nations campaign.

Having been dropped for only the third time in his international career for England's final game against France, Toulon's defeat by Clermont gives him an early chance to win his shirt back from Toby Flood. Wilkinson is free to play for England against the Barbarians a week tomorrow, while Flood will be unavailable as Leicester play Saracens in the Guinness Premiership final the day before.

He said: "My aim is always to keep getting better. Who knows where it will take me, but I appreciate what I have been through." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Cardiff Blues v Toulon

Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, 2.0

Irish Independent

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