Rugby World Cup 2011

Kicker won't be decided by ego

2011-10-06 10:36
Jonny wilkinson (Getty Images)

Auckland - Jonny Wilkinson has said his status as England's record points scorer won't mean he'll have the first crack at goalkicking duties instead of Toby Flood during Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against France.

Wilkinson is England's highest points scorer with 1,177, but he has been below par in this tournament, with just nine successes from 20 goal attempts, whereas Flood, recalled for the France match, has nailed 10 of his 13 efforts.

England manager Martin Johnson has paired fly-halves Wilkinson and Flood at Nos 10 and 12 respectively among four team changes in a bid to claim a third straight World Cup semi-final appearance.

Wilkinson, who was the drop-goal hero of England's 2003 World Cup final win over Australia in Sydney, said he was "hugely reassured" to have the 26-year-old Flood, who started his professional career as his understudy when the pair were at Newcastle, playing outside him against the unpredictable French.

"The thing about having Toby there is hugely reassuring. It's more so that there is always going to be someone making decisions," Wilkinson said Thursday of the now Leicester playmaker.

"If I'm at the bottom of a ruck there's going to be someone else thinking as a 10 (fly-half), there's someone else if there's a discussion that needs to be made real quick and vice-versa.

"The communication between the two of us is going to be important, not just in kicking but in general."

Wilkinson, now with French club Toulon, said a decision on who will kick will not be made simply based on ego but after practice at Eden Park on match eve.

"Toby and I are both preparing as hard as we can for this game and we'll make that decision (goalkicker) after we've been to the stadium tomorrow (Friday) in terms of who is going to do that," he said.

"It's safe to say that Toby has knocked some great kicks over already, he's looking good and he's in fine form.

"We'll see how he is preparing, how I am preparing. I am always confident that I hit kicks, I'm never afraid to take them.

"For the team it's important that whatever happens out here it's for the team, it's not about individuals."

Wilkinson said there have been games in his career when he hasn't started out as goalkicker. "It's an outcome that I'm perfectly happy with.

"I think I've had most of my ego knocked out of me along the way and the longer you play the longer you realise the whole thing is about the team.

"It's (ego) a great thing to have in some respects. It gives you that huge competitive nature that says 'I will not lie down, I will not be beaten, I will never give up' whether the situation is a foregone conclusion or not.

"Ego is that competitive spirit, what makes you stand up and try to smash the hell out of a big guy running at you or what makes you get up when you are hurt, and what makes you attacking kicks because you know you can get the next one.

"But ego in the wrong sense can stand in the way of everything. In terms of a team spirit, a team dynamic and togetherness, egos can be the worst thing in the world. It's a case of finding the right one."

Wilkinson, 32, who has been cleared of an elbow injury to play this weekend, said he has made no decision on when he will retire from rugby.

"The future of my career is dependent on me getting better and me having an impact in whatever I'm doing," he said.

"That's a question you ask yourself every day, am I helping this team, am I having a positive impact and if the answers to these things are 'yes', then the enjoyment is still there for me in the game.

"As soon that I get the impression that that's not so or the enjoyment leaves then that's the time to go."

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