Jonny Wilkinson compares Eddie Jones to World Cup-winning England coach Sir Clive Woodward

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Jonny Wilkinson believes England‘s masters of reinvention can power their country to World Cup glory in Japan.

World Cup-winner Wilkinson hailed boss Eddie Jones for taking his players “to the edge” in the same way as Sir Clive Woodward in the build-up to that 2003 triumph.

The former England fly-half believes the class of 2019 boasts a backline full of rare-breed talents that can strike fear into opponents in Japan.

England will launch their World Cup bid against Tonga on September 22, with former Newcastle and Toulon fly-half Wilkinson backing Jones’ men to peak at the right time.

“The momentum is rolling, they are peaking,” Wilkinson told the PA news agency. “I’d definitely like to think they can win it.

“What’s impressed me most is that every time they get a chance to regroup they always come back stronger.

“That doesn’t mean it always goes perfectly. But every time they regroup the next performance is huge, and they are very good at building momentum.

England are in fine form approaching the World Cup.

England are in fine form approaching the World Cup.

“They’re constantly coming back bigger and stronger, and reinventing themselves, and for me, that’s the key.

“And teams will have to do that in this World Cup, it won’t just be a straight run of wins.

“That ability to take it all in, absorb it, say ‘who cares, what do we do next’? That’s key.”

Woodward famously left no stone unturned en route to England’s 2003 World Cup triumph, and now Wilkinson sees parallels with former Australia boss Jones.

Wilkinson has spent time in the England camp as an occasional skills coach, and believes Jones’ abrasive edge pushes players to reach their full potential.

“The key for a coach is setting the environment for the players,” said Wilkinson, speaking as a Land Rover ambassador.

“That involves clarity but also that everyone is important, whether that’s a junior coming in for a few sessions, or the captain.

“The next thing is that guys feel they are being improved, and thirdly that guys feel they can still explore – not just hold on to their position, but that they can feel like they can just let it all go.

“They need to feel that there’s a guy constantly challenging them to let it go, challenging you to go to the edge where you don’t know what’s on the other side and to step into that space.

“Eddie challenges, that’s the spiky side, he doesn’t let people become comfortable.

“So if you’re looking for a comfortable ride then that’s going to be difficult, but if you’re looking for a career where you can come out the other side of it and say ‘jeez, I went there and I found out what I was capable of’, then he’s the guy you want.

“We had that in 2003. And we had a beautiful environment where guys were motivated and encouraged to explore, and not to play it safe.

“There’s nothing better than someone there who’s actually willing to give you a living example of saying ‘you know what, I can deal with all consequences’. That allows you to go out there and give it all you’ve got.”

England boast a litany of backline playmakers, with George Ford, Owen Farrell, Henry Slade and Elliot Daly all stellar creative talents.

Wilkinson believes England’s blend could even be the envy of the likes of back-to-back world champions New Zealand.

Wilkinson scored the drop goal that won England the World Cup in 2003.

Wilkinson scored the drop goal that won England the World Cup in 2003.

“The way the game is now that second decision-maker can’t just be a second fly-half, he has to have enough about him to be able to move in contact, to offload, to be a physical threat, not just another decision-maker and ball player,” said Wilkinson.

“So guys like Farrell and Slade, they are quite rare breeds, to be big enough and strong enough but also to be able to take a step back and direct things too.

“That rare breed really opens up some options. And outside that there’s another rare breed in Manu Tuilagi, who if you leave him half an arm you’ve got no chance.

“So it’s a lovely balance to have. And one we might have looked at New Zealand or other teams in the past and thought ‘wouldn’t it be lovely to have that’, and now we do.

“Outside that too we’ve got Jonny May and Joe Cokanasiga, who are not just finishers they are get-out options too, they are power runners, and in some cases extra forwards too.

“With the decision-makers and the threat of Tuilagi, it’s a big threat, and provided they all stay fit, then why not? It could be a great World Cup.”

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Brian O'Driscoll stunned by Devin Toner's omission from Ireland World Cup squad

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Brian O’Driscoll insists that Ireland lock Devin Toner’s World Cup omission “beggars belief”.

Former Ireland skipper O’Driscoll admitted to being left nonplussed by Joe Schmidt’s decision to select Munster’s Jean Kleyn ahead of lineout boss Toner.

Ireland named their 31-man World Cup squad on Monday, with 33-year-old Toner the glaring absentee.

Former British & Irish Lions captain O’Driscoll believes Leinster stalwart Toner could have proved crucial to Ireland’s lineout at the World Cup, but still backed boss Schmidt to steer his side back to top form.

“I think there was always going to be a big omission, such is the strength in depth,” O’Driscoll told the PA news agency.

“I guess no-one saw Devin Toner being left out. And it kind of beggars belief that if the lineout is malfunctioning you then don’t include your tallest player and your best lineout operator.

Devin Toner is the big omission from the Ireland World Cup squad.

Devin Toner is the big omission from the Ireland World Cup squad.

“He’s the most capped player under Joe Schmidt, the go-to guy for big games.

“And only 10 months ago he was dominating the lineout in that big victory against the All Blacks at the Aviva Stadium. So it’s quite the fall from grace.

“And obviously Joe Schmidt sees something in Jean Kleyn, different player from Devin Toner, a big scrummager and maybe a meatier ball carrier.

“But if I was Devin Toner I’d be feeling very sorry for myself, and wondering whether it was justified.”

Toner has started 50 of Schmidt’s 67 Test matches at the Ireland helm, and produced a fine showing in the 16-9 win over back-to-back world champions New Zealand in Dublin in November.

Munster’s South Africa-born lock Kleyn only qualified on residency for Ireland two days before his Test debut, against Italy in August.

But now the 26-year-old has been thrust into Ireland’s final World Cup group, with Schmidt valuing his scrummaging ability and aggression around the field.

O’Driscoll believes Toner could yet wind up at the World Cup however, should any injuries strike the Ireland camp.

Schmidt’s side will complete their warm-up schedule by hosting Wales in Dublin on Saturday, before opening their Pool A campaign against Scotland on September 22.

Asked if a discarded player can ever state their selection arguments to a coach, O’Driscoll said: “I think you have to be careful with how honest you are, there’s a chance of injuries and you don’t want to alienate yourself by putting your foot in your mouth and saying something you can’t take back.

“You can be honest and say ‘I think you’ve made a bad decision’, but ultimately it’s not going to change his mind.

“So you’ve got to deal with the disappointment and stay fit because you never know what’s around the corner.”

O'Driscoll scores a try against Australia at the 2003 World Cup.

O’Driscoll scores a try against Australia at the 2003 World Cup.

Ireland slumped to a record 57-15 loss to England at Twickenham two weeks ago, causing external alarm amid their World Cup preparations.

O’Driscoll enjoyed years of success under Schmidt at first Leinster and then Ireland, and backed the savvy Kiwi boss to roll a few more trademark trick plays once the Japanese global battle gets into full swing.

“Undoubtedly Joe’s still got a few more tricks up his sleeve,” said O’Driscoll, speaking as a Land Rover ambassador.

“You would have been a bit more comfortable if you’d seen a little bit more rhythm to the team, particularly in phase plays.

“But I think some of the launch plays he’s got planned, some we’ll have seen in play books three or four years ago, others we’ll never have seen before.

“So I’m excited as an analyst to go and watch that, and see how he manipulates defences to then get them to do something that they can counter.

“And that’s where he separates himself from the rest of the coaching world: the amount of footage he’s watched, and the detail that he goes through, he’s able to see patterns and put things into effect to counter opponents.”

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Warren Gatland says six or seven teams can win Rugby World Cup after naming Wales squad

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Wales boss Warren Gatland chats with Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt.

Warren Gatland believes there are as many as six or seven teams capable of winning the World Cup after naming his 31-man Wales squad for the tournament.

Lock Cory Hill has been named in the group despite suffering from a leg fracture. Dragons lock Hill, who captained his country in two Tests against Argentina last year, could be unavailable until Wales’ second pool game against Australia in Tokyo on September 29.

He has not played since February, while fly-half Rhys Patchell also features following his try-scoring exploits against Ireland on Saturday.

Scarlets props Rob Evans and Samson Lee did not make the cut, with Saracens loosehead Rhys Carre, who made his Test debut against Ireland, among five players chosen in that position.

“We’ll have to assess the progress of someone like Cory Hill,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“Hopefully, he will be on track to make that second game, but if he doesn’t hit his markers, we may have to make a call.

“I think this is the most open World Cup we’ve had for a long time. There are six or seven teams capable of winning the World Cup.

Rhys Patchell will back up Dan Biggar.

Rhys Patchell will back up Dan Biggar.

“You always need a little bit of luck. You get to the quarter-finals and then take it one game at a time.

“I think it (squad) is good enough to win (the World Cup). We go there with a lot of confidence.”

Gatland has opted for a split of 13 backs and 18 forwards, but Evans and Lee, who have 77 caps between them, miss out along with the likes of Jarrod Evans, Owen Lane, Scott Williams and Bradley Davies from Wales’ training group.

Gatland added: “When we decided to go with the five props, one of the big discussion points was how durable the props were.

“Rob hasn’t trained a lot in the lead-up to the World Cup matches. He came in with a shoulder injury, then he picked up a neck injury and a few back issues, so he hadn’t played a lot.

“Samson has missed a few campaigns through injury, and had a hamstring issue during the campaign.

“Someone like Rhys Carre has made incredible progress. He’s dropped 10kgs, I thought he did well on Saturday.

“Apart from one day, when he found it tough when his calves were tight, he hasn’t missed a training session, he hasn’t been in the physio room.”

It will be captain Alun-Wyn Jones’ fourth World Cup, with wing George North and hooker Ken Owens featuring in the tournament for a third time.

Patchell and Jarrod Evans effectively played for one fly-half place alongside Dan Biggar when they had 40 minutes each in Saturday’s 22-17 defeat against Ireland.

“I thought Rhys came on and gave a pretty solid performance in the second-half,” Gatland said.

“For us, with Rhys, the whole time he’s been with us it has been about rebuilding his confidence.

“He came in not being picked for the Scarlets, being on the bench and not having a lot of rugby, so we wanted to bring him along slowly, giving him the confidence and belief he can perform at this level.”

Wales’ opening World Cup game is against Georgia in Toyota City on September 23, followed by Australia in Tokyo six days later.

The tournament will be Gatland’s farewell from a role he has filled since 2008, during which time Wales have won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semi-final.

Wales World Cup squad

FORWARDS

Props: Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Rhys Carre (Saracens), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues)

Hookers: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets)

Second-rows: Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Cory Hill (Dragons), Jake Ball (Scarlets).

Back-rowers: Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), James Davies (Scarlets)

BACKS

Scrum-halves: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues), Aled Davies (Ospreys)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Northampton), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets)

Centres: Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Owen Watkin (Ospreys)

Back three: Liam Williams (Saracens), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets), George North (Ospreys), Hallam Amos (Cardiff Blues), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues)

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