Mark Wilson was battling to establish himself in the Newcastle Falcons back row as England staged the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but four years later he has a key role to play as part of Eddie Jones’s squad in Japan.
Wilson and the rest of the England squad arrived in central Tokyo today having been delayed at Narita airport due to travel problems caused by Typhoon Faxia which swept through the Japanese capital and after a night recovering from the flight, the England squad will head to their training base at Miyazaki in the south of the country.
For Wilson, selection in the 31 man England squad is something he sees as merely the first step towards powering the team to World Cup glory and his no-nonsense back row play suits the intensely physical approach Jones is looking for at the tournament. With pool games against Tonga and USA in quick succession before the pool deciding clashes with Argentina and France, England will need the abrasive attitude that is the hallmark of Wilson’s rugby and which allowed him to break into test rugby.
Wilson, who turns 30 in the middle of the World Cup (Oct 6), has won 14 caps and his performance in the 37-0 win over Italy in his native North East on Friday night encapsulated the strengths that saw him not only become indispensable for Newcastle but impossible for Jones to ignore. Wilson’s need for top flight rugby means he will operate on loan at Sale Sharks in the Premiership, however, that switch in allegiance won’t happen until England have completed their World Cup campaign.
Wilson, whose face bears the scars of his back row trade, said: “Some of the performances in our warm up games were really good but the journey for us is only just starting. Now we are in the business end of things and, hopefully, we can keep on improving. The World Cup is really going to test us and some games are no going to go our way and it is how we react to those challenges and the Italy game was a perfect example. We didn’t get frustrated or panic and the great thing is that we are still building as a squad, getting closer as a team.
“In all honestly, the World Cup is going to be a new experience for some of us and we have to be ready for anything and it is important that we problem solve as a group. I have never been to Japan before and we went to Italy to train in the kind of humid climate that we are going to have to face and we learnt a lot about how handle the ball in those conditions and how to deal with things when the intensity of the game rises.
“We have been training for the biggest tournament in the world and it has been a physical challenge. We have learned a lot about ourselves and I have loved it.”
Wilson and his England team mates are set to share a bonus fund of nearly £7m if they win the World Cup with the Times revealing each player could bank more than £200,000 each for repeating the 2003 success in Australia.
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