Wilko sounds warning to cynics

Jonny Wilkinson says he is better player than he was in 2003.

Wilkinson famously sunk the drop goal that won England the World Cup but hasn’t played Test rugby since.

It however took him just 40 minutes for Newcastle at the weekend to convince England coach Brian Ashton that he was ready to return to the international fold.

But Ashton’s decision to start him against Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday came as a major surprise.

“I’m not one to doubt myself. I’m not a brash individual but I’d not be here if I didn’t believe I was ready,” Wilkinson told BBC Sport.

“I’ve added a few more skills to my bow. With age I have gained a greater level of composure and I see things and play the game more simply.”

“There was surprise but if I didn’t believe I could do it there would be more surprise.

“I am quiet and capable and I believe in myself. There is no difference in my approach mentally and physically from 2003 but I’m a different player.”

England no doubt need a “different player” from those they have tried in the No 10 shirt recently.

Charlie Hodgson and Andy Goode were ordinary in England’s year-end Test series, while Toby Flood is too inexperienced to be considered as a first-choice pivot for the World Cup.

Ashton’s bullish talk suggests all his money is on Wilkinson to stay fit for the World Cup.

“I’ve been his mentor this season. I’ve seen him play four games and every game he has played better than the last,” Ashton said.

“He is a much better player now than in the World Cup final in 2003. His game understanding and his intelligence is at a higher level.

“It is a logical selection for where English rugby is at the moment.”