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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 February 2007, 21:06 GMT
Wilkinson: The Comeback King
Shoulder - December2003Neck/shoulder - February 2004Upper right arm - October 2004Left knee - January 2005Left knee again - March 2005Right shoulder/arm - July 2005Appendix removed - September 2005Groin/hernia - November 2005Groin - January 2006Right knee - September 2006Kidney - November 2006

It may have been 1,169 long days. But on Saturday, Jonny Wilkinson returned to action for England as if he'd never been away.

On another Saturday back in November 2003, the Newcastle fly-half dropped the goal that clinched the Rugby World Cup against Australia in Sydney.

And at Twickenham the seemingly interminable run of injuries Wilkinson has suffered were put triumphantly aside in one of sport's greatest comebacks.

Many felt new national coach Brian Ashton was taking an almighty risk in recalling him against Scotland after just 45 minutes of rugby since lacerating a kidney.

But he defied even the most optimistic expectations with a record-breaking Calcutta Cup haul of 27 points.

Here is a reminder of what the 27-year-old has been through over the last three years.

DECEMBER 2003

Wilkinson's famous World Cup-winning drop-goal came with just 20 seconds left of extra time and gave England a 20-17 victory in the final against Australia.

But his return to club rugby with Newcastle was delayed by a fractured facet in his right shoulder which kept him out for three weeks.

FEBRUARY 2004

He was now BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but England's rugby hero played for just 53 minutes on his comeback against Northampton in January before being sidelined by another shoulder injury.

This time, he damaged tissue and nerve endings in his shoulder and neck and was forced to undergo surgery, ruling him out for a further seven months.

OCTOBER 2004

Wilkinson returned for Newcastle in a pre-season friendly against Irish province Connacht in August.

He was named England captain by coach Andy Robinson in early October, but deep bruising to his right bicep muscle, sustained on 17 October, ruled him out for six weeks, missing all of England's autumn internationals.

JANUARY 2005

He returned to the bench for Newcastle in the Heineken Cup match against Edinburgh on 11 December and started his first full game on 2 January against Sale.

But he suffered medial ligament damage to his left knee against Perpignan in the Heineken Cup on 8 January and was ruled out for two months.

MARCH 2005

On 13 March, Wilkinson made his comeback against Harlequins, but played for only 34 minutes before injuring the same left knee. He was out for another month.

JULY 2005

In May, he was named in Sir Clive Woodward's Lions squad for the tour of New Zealand but he suffered a "stinger" - a nerve problem associated with shoulder and neck injuries - in the second Test on 2 July. He was ruled out for two more months.

SEPTEMBER 2005

Wilkinson was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure after complaining of sickness on Newcastle's pre-season tour of Japan in August.

He was diagnosed with an inflamed appendix and had surgery to remove it, missing another four weeks.

NOVEMBER 2005

He returned on 2 October as a replacement for Newcastle against Sale but in late November he had surgery on his right groin, a fairly routine procedure for an injury known as a "sportsman's hernia". Out for two months.

JANUARY 2006

Wilkinson was set to return for Falcons against Gloucester on 19 February but suffered a torn adductor (groin) muscle in training, an injury unrelated to November's hernia operation. Out for three months.

SEPTEMBER 2006

Wilkinson eased his way back in as a replacement at the end of the 2006 Guinness Premiership season.

But on 8 September he sustained medial ligament damage to his right knee after an innocuous-looking collision with team-mate Andy Buist in a Premiership match against Worcester.

NOVEMBER 2006

He returned from his latest knee injury against Bristol on 3 November - his first start for eight weeks. But six days later was diagnosed with a lacerated kidney.

Wilkinson resumed light training on 15 December and on 2 January was named in new England coach Brian Ashton's Six Nations squad.

THE COMEBACK: What they said

"It was just good to get back on the field, and feel the whole atmosphere. It is what I live a lot of my life for."
Wilkinson himself.

"There was a lot of speculation about whether he should have played or not and ultimately he made the decision. I think he proved he made the correct one."
England head coach Brian Ashton.

"He was like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, when he has his hand lopped off and keeps coming back again."
Former England centre Jeremy Guscott.

"You have to wonder in awe at that performance. I don't think even I thought he could be that good."
RFU elite rugby director and former England fly-half Rob Andrew

"He is a huge asset for the team and the game, and I just hope he stays in one piece."
England captain Phil Vickery.


Graphic: Darren Blane.
Words: Rob Hodgetts, Frank Keogh, Bryn Palmer.




SEE ALSO
It feels like a dream - Wilkinson
04 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson relief after comeback
03 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
England 42-20 Scotland
03 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson shock at England recall
30 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson is yet to peak - Andrew
30 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
England pick Wilkinson & Farrell
29 Jan 07 |  English


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