RUGBY : Jonny Wilkinson has warned England will have to toughen up if they are to stand any chance of overturning the odds and beating New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
Jonny Wilkinson has warned England will have to toughen up if they are to stand any chance of overturning the odds and beating New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Toulon fly-half is one of only four members of the England squad to have tasted victory over the All Blacks, along with Joe Worsley, Lewis Moody and Steve Thompson. Wilkinson played a key role in England’s triumphs over the All Blacks at Twickenham in November 2002 and in Wellington in the summer of 2003.
Drawing on those experiences, Wilkinson warned England will have to be resilient when things go against them, and said: “You have to react hard. You have to push yourself. You have to accept it will be fast and frantic and tough. They are full of world-class players and you cannot switch off.”
He added: “Minute by minute you have to take your hits, accept they are a good team and that they might pop over a penalty here or score a try there.
“You have to react and come back. That is what we did a few years ago. We had situations against the best teams when we were scores down. You have to stick to your task.
“It is difficult but you have to keep these games tight. If you let New Zealand build up momentum and take control then suddenly you are out of the game.
“With half an hour left you are wondering where it has gone. It is not one of those games you can hang in there.”
In 2002, Wilkinson claimed a full-house in England’s 31-28 victory at Twickenham and the following summer he scored all the points in an era-defining 15-13 win in horrendous conditions in New Zealand.
Since then, though, New Zealand have won the last seven encounters with fly-half Dan Carter accumulating more points on his own than England have managed between them. The average score is Carter 19 England 13.
“Whether it is scoring points, making decisions, defending, attacking, coming up with the big play himself, setting others up for the big play, he does them all,” said Wilkinson of Carter. “He has a skill level that is impeccably high. Is he one of the most skilful players there has ever been? I think without a doubt.”