All Blacks favourites for RWC - Wilkinson

2015-06-10 10:12
Jonny Wilkinson (Supplied)

Cape Town - Although he believes the Rugby World Cup will be a very open tournament, England legend Jonny Wilkinson, rates New Zealand as favourites - with South Africa hot on their heels.

Speaking at a British Airways-sponsored testimonial dinner in Hong Kong, the mercurial flyhalf warned that England could also go all the way if they embrace home-ground advantage.

The black-tie event was a fundraiser for the Jonny Wilkinson Foundation.

Reminiscing on his career, Wilkinson said that his favourite touring venues tended to be the sunnier cities. These included Sydney, Brisbane, Marseille and Bloemfontein.

Predictably Twickenham takes first place in his list of top five stadia, followed by Stade de France, where he played his last ever game; Stade Mayol, Toulon’s home ground; Stadium Australia, where England won the 2003 World Cup; and the old Wembley, even though England lost the only match there in which he played. 

While he wouldn’t be pushed on his Dream 15, Wilkinson included Joel Stransky and Jannie de Beer among the No 10s he would consider. Others were Rob Andrew, Michael Lynagh, Dan Carter, Stephen Larkham, Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Jones, Andrew Mehrtens, Gregor Townsend and Freddie Michalak.

He conceded that Springbok wing, Bryan Habana, who famously raced a British Airways A380, probably has the edge when it comes to flat-out speed.

“I played alongside Bryan Habana for two full seasons with Toulon and although we never raced I got the impression that it would have been pretty close up until the starter gun went off and then a little humiliating after that... for me, not him.”

Finally Wilkinson’s advice to the teams flying to the World Cup is not to let the anxiety build up before the big event.

“My simple tip for flying before a big competition is to relax. British Airways has always looked after us brilliantly well and it’s hard enough with all the pressure of the tournament and performing.

“The key is to understand that you need to be ready for the first training session, or the team meeting once you have arrived. There is no point in being ready before that, otherwise it is just mismanagement of energy. Enjoy the opportunity to rest and watch a few films because once the World Cup gets going it becomes harder and harder to switch off... or at least it did for me.”

Read more on:    rwc 2015  |  jonny wilkinson  |  rugby

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