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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Aussies wary of Wilkinson factor
By Ben Dirs
BBC Sport in Marseille

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson is being protected in England's training sessions
Australia's Matt Giteau says Jonny Wilkinson's return has made England a far more dangerous proposition for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final.

Wilkinson missed England's first two games through injury but started against Samoa and Tonga to help get his nation's faltering campaign on track.

"They have lots of confidence with him back in the side, and not just in terms of his kicking," said Giteau.

"Once he is in the team, the whole side seems to grow in confidence."

Australia have won four of the five Tests against England since the last World Cup but Wilkinson - who has kicked 40 points in his two appearances in France - missed all the matches through a series of injuries.

The last time Wilkinson did play against the Wallabies was in the 2003 World Cup final - when he scored 15 points in England's famous victory, including a match-winning extra-time drop-goal.


But Giteau insisted his side would go into the match, against an England side that will have Wilkinson at fly-half, without any psychological scars.

"We don't fear England with him in the team - we don't really fear any of their players," insisted the Australia centre.

"We respect all the teams but we don't fear anyone in the tournament.

"England have got a very good forward pack and their back line is beginning to improve."

Giteau also stated that the more experienced players in the side would be doing their best to take the pressure off the shoulders of their inexperienced fly-half Berrick Barnes.

The 21-year-old has made an impressive start to his Test career after coming in for the injured Stephen Larkham and Giteau said he wanted the youngster to just "play his game".

England are improving as tournament goes on and have momentum on their side

Australia flanker George Smith

Meanwhile, Wallabies flanker George Smith believes England will pose a challenge that few thought they could mount after their 36-0 demolition by South Africa.

"England have been in a rebuilding phase since 2003 and it takes time to build cohesion," said Smith.

"They definitely aren't the team of 2003 but they are improving as the tournament goes on and have momentum on their side.

"It's a huge challenge. England were humbled by South Africa but have improved with each game and are now a very good side. They are always up for it against Australia."

Smith's comments are in marked contrast to those of his team-mate Lote Tuqiri, who dismissed England's back line, claiming that winger Jason Robinson was the nation's only world-class three-quarter.

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01 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
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25 Sep 07 |  Rugby Union
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28 Sep 07 |  English
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04 Sep 07 |  English
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28 Aug 07 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson avoids his finest hour
26 Apr 07 |  English
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29 Sep 07 |  Rugby Union


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