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'It's what needed to happen': Wilkinson's message to bruised England side

By Ben Smith
Kyle Sinckler, Alex Dombrandt, Max Malins, Jack van Poortvliet and Jamie George of England look dejected during the Six Nations Rugby match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium on March 11, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England’s legendary flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson has offered a philosophical view of the 53-10 defeat at the hands of defending Grand Slam champions France.

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The World Cup-winning No 10s perspective comes from personal experience after Wilkinson was involved in previous heavy defeats, suffering a 76-0 loss to Australia in 1998 and a 58-10 loss to South Africa in 2007.

In both cases England rebounded from the losses to have success, winning one World Cup in 2003 and making the final in the other 2007.

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Wilkinson believed that the defeat will help the side reach the bottom from which they can shed themselves of false beliefs, allowing for a re-birth to occur following a mindset change.

His personal experience from the defeat to the Wallabies ended up as a ‘cleansing opportunity’ which enabled him to experience growth as a player.

“It’s really interesting because it’s what needs to happen, there is no other way around it,” Wilkinson explained to the ITV post-game show.

“It’s not a wrong turn, it’s not the end of the path, this is the path.

“In that 1998 game for me it was a real cleansing opportunity to realise the story of who I thought I was could no longer carry on.

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“It was almost forced to change. And in that change I found brand new possibility.”

The former England flyhalf also didn’t think this meant that success is years away, pointing to his experience in 2007 leading to his second World Cup final appearance.

England were heavily beaten in the summer by the Springboks in South Africa and returned to face them at that year’s World Cup.

“In Bloemfontein in 2007, yes in the summer there we lost a game by 50 points, within three months we were in a World Cup final,” he recalled.

“It doesn’t mean ‘oh this means years and years of this’, it has to happen. It’s a massive humility check in all kinds of ways.

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“Not that those guys are arrogant but it is realising that an evolution needs to take place and it is a huge learning experience.

“If there is that desire and intention to push on, it will turn into something bigger and better.

“However long that takes, I don’t know. Which players will be there and which won’t, I don’t know.”

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It doesn’t get any easier for England who have to face Ireland next week, the world’s current number one ranked side and favourites to complete a Grand Slam.

They will travel to Dublin to face Andy Farrell’s side at home which could be a ceremonious occasion should Ireland defeat Scotland on Sunday.

Despite the result against France, Wilkinson believed the team will feel less burdened now that the worst has happened.

“I think that team will come out lighter next time on the field,” he said.

“They’ll feel more bouncy on their feet. They won’t feel heavier because of this defeat.

“In that Ireland game I think there will be a freshness in the team.

“They can say ‘yeah okay let’s stop pretending’ and give it a crack.”

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Shaylen 4 hours ago
Brumbies the best team in Australia but still nothing to show for it

The Brumbies have been the strongest side in Australia for a long time and that was down to their forwards and set piece which has always been good and has always been able to dominate their Australian counterparts. This year the lack of maul tries and also the lack of a stable scrum has been a real problem which was also something Nick alluded to in his article this week about the creaking brumbies tight five. Home advantage is key as you say and the Brumbies must find a way to score more bonus points. If the Brumbies are really serious about winning a title they need to do what Kiwi sides at the top do. They need to smash every Aus side with a bonus point at home while claiming losing bonus points in every game they lose and denying their rivals bonus points. In their 3 losses in NZ this year they were smashed. They only scored 60 tries which is middle of the road, their scrum came in at 73% which was one of the worst in the comp, tackle success at just 83% which was right at the bottom and in terms of metres, clean breaks, carries, offloads and rucks built they were in the middle plus they had the most yellows. They basically were just not dominant enough wile they can improve their discipline. They excelled at kicking and won plenty of lineout ball plus their rucks were secure at 97%. Not sure about turnovers but they weren’t bad there. They just need to be more clinical and give away less and they will give themselves the best chance to win the title.

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