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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 October 2007, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Wilkinson 'tougher than in 2003'
England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson's success rate has fallen but he is still a massive influence
Jonny Wilkinson is mentally tougher now than when he helped England to win the World Cup in 2003, says Rugby Football Union director of rugby Rob Andrew.

Fly-half Wilkinson has kicked the vital points on England's journey to a second straight final despite his success rate not being as high as usual.

"He has probably missed more than he would like to have," said Andrew.

"He hasn't let that affect him and I think it would have done so much more in the last World Cup than this one."

Wilkinson, who kicked the winning drop-goal in the final four years ago, went into Saturday's semi-final against France with a 62.5% success rate in the tournament.

He kicked nine points including a late penalty and a drop-goal in the 14-9 victory but missed several earlier attempts.

Former England fly-half Andrew said: "He has dusted himself down if he has missed something, got back on with the game and had enormous confidence that he is going to knock the next one over."

England beat Australia courtesy of a Wilkinson drop-goal to win the World Cup four years ago but the 28-year-old has struggled to play since because of injuries.


"He has changed quite a bit in the last three or four years," added Andrew. "He is much more relaxed about his own game.

"That is not to say that he does not still work as hard as he ever did but because of what he has been through in the last three or four years, I think he is much more at ease with himself and his game.

"He missed two against France and then the penalty he kicked from the left-hand touchline in the second half was a fantastic kick.

"If you are going to kick a penalty and drop-goal you might as well do it in the last five minutes."

Wilkinson himself played down his role in the dramatic win over France.

"To be honest, I seem to manage to fool people because every kick I miss, these guys get me another shot," Wilkinson told 5Live.

"With a bunch of guys like that you never feel disheartened when one doesn't go over because they just get back on with the business."

His England team-mates were happy to heap praise on the number 10, Mike Catt saying: "When the chips are down, the man stands up. It is just absolutely brilliant.

There was a non-match ball which got on to the field last night for one of those kicks which is why Jonny rejected it

Rob Andrew

"It is why he is who he is. The drop-goal was spot-on, just at a crucial time in the game. He's done it again, but this has been a massive team effort."

And flanker Lewis Moody said: "Jonny is a legend, isn't he? When the pressure mounts and when the real points are needed, he comes up with the goods."

Coach Brian Ashton added: "For him like for the rest of us it has been a bit of a rollercoaster - injured missing the first two games and then obviously his success rate kicking at goal has not been as high as it was.

"There may be all sorts of reasons that I know nothing about for that but he is still a very influential factor in our side.

"I suspect if you ask every one of the other 14 players individually what they thought about having Jonny Wilkinson in the side they would all be extremely positive.

"We do know that if we work hard as a team to get into the sort of positions we got into against France, he is the one man you would put your money on to put the ball in between the posts."

There has been a row about the quality of balls used at this World Cup and, during the game against France, Wilkinson swapped one he had been given to take a penalty.

"It was pretty straightforward," explained Andrew. "It wasn't a match ball. I've no idea how that came about.

"That's one of the things we wanted to get right because, although we didn't say it last week, there was a non-match ball that got on to the field in Marseille (against Australia) which Jonny actually kicked and wasn't happy with.

"He didn't really stop to think about it while he was doing it and then it was after that that we said 'we have to get this right'.

"There was a non-match ball which got on to the field last night for one of those kicks which is why Jonny rejected it."

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