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'I was a nervous wreck': How England's Max Malins reacted the first time he met Jonny Wilkinson

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Rising England star Max Malins admits he curled up into a ball with nerves when meeting boyhood hero Jonny Wilkinson for the first time. Wearing a full red rose strip, Malins would pretend to be Wilkinson in his back garden as a child but now takes instruction from the World Cup winner, who acts as a kicking mentor to Eddie Jones’ squad.

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A breakthrough autumn saw Malins win three England caps as a replacement and the 24-year-old Saracens full-back is in contention for a role in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham. “I had a group session with Jonny a few years back and met him on a couple of camps. On the first time, I was curled up into a little ball, a nervous wreck!” Malins said.

“It’s still very surreal that he is in and around these camps when he was someone I looked up to and wanted to be as a young boy. After each time I see him I get more normalised by it, but there is still that tingling inside which is awesome.

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“I was very outcome-driven with my kicking a few years back and Jonny is very much about the process and deeper thinking behind it. Now I just go out and kick a ball and don’t worry about where it has gone, it’s all about the why and how you feel. That is something I have learned from him.”

Malins is likely to continue on the bench when the team is announced for the Calcutta Cup clash on Thursday morning with Saracens teammate Elliot Daly still Jones’ first choice at full-back. If Malins does join the action in the opening instalment of England’s title defence, then he will be instructed to play heads-up rugby as the team look to become more ruthless.

“It’s all about seeing opportunities and making sure we take every opportunity that comes our way,” Malins said. “And maybe developing a bit more of an optimistic mindset and not being as pessimistic. There has definitely been a focus on getting our eyes up, seeing opportunities and making sure we take them there and then because one or two phases later, the door could be shut.”

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Malins has spent the last year on loan at Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol, who have given him greater scope to use his attacking instincts. “It’s definitely a new way of playing, one that I enjoy. The way Bristol play, we get it into the outside backs’ hands quite a lot with a bit of space,” he said.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on kick-return and taking opportunities. It has certainly developed me as a player, added another string to my bow. It has been good to delve into a new way of playing.”

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'I was a nervous wreck': How England's Max Malins reacted the first time he met Jonny Wilkinson

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