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Experts' view on Wilkinson axe

Matt Dawson
By Matt Dawson
Former England scrum-half and BBC summariser

Against Scotland, Jonny Wilkinson was a shadow of his former self but you have to look at the personnel around him.

He's always been thrown back in too early, he's never been played in the Saxons or A team, or been given some under-the-radar games to get his confidence

Matt Dawson

There are some brilliant players in that England team but maybe they don't have the general understanding of the game in key areas.

Toby Flood is someone I really like as a player, and the likes of Richard Wigglesworth and Nick Easter are all good players, but I don't feel those guys are making decisions around Jonny.

Will Greenwood's communication and understanding made the game easy for Jonny.

He could say "kick it there" or "give me the ball" - there was a running commentary so he could execute the call, and Jonny was one of the best executors of rugby skills around.

England need those types of player back - and pretty quickly.

It may be a few years ago now, but he's proved he's a quality player. He's not playing well though and this is a reactive measure from Brian Ashton, rather than a proactive one.

It's not just Brian, but also Andy Robinson and Clive Woodward just after the World Cup - Jonny's always been thrown back in too early, he's never been played in the Saxons or A team, or been given some under-the-radar games to get his confidence back.

But it's not the end of Jonny as a fly-half.

Mike Catt
By Mike Catt
Former England captain

Unfortunately by his own standards, Jonny hasn't performed, but I don't think there are many other players in that team who lost to Scotland who deserve to get selected against Ireland at the weekend.

I suppose he was the general on the pitch that particular day, but he does need help from those around him, and with Richard Wigglesworth inside him and Toby Flood outside him being so inexperienced, there's a lot more on his shoulders.

606: DEBATE
Unfortunately he hasn't had that help around him which has been able to steer the team in the right parts of the pitch.

I was dropped 15 or 16 times, and I'm sure Jonny will bounce back and be much better when he comes back.

Once you get dropped you pull yourself out of that (team) environment and focus on yourself as an individual.

Little things like kicking from hand, which he's usually good at, haven't been going well at all, so he can go away and focus on that and be better for it.

Danny Cipriani is one of those players who will set things alight, but he's also a player who'll be up and down throughout his career - he doesn't have Wilkinson's consistency.

Former England fly-half Paul Grayson
By Paul Grayson
Former England fly-half

I'm not really surprised. Jonny's form of late has not been up to his usual high standards and Cipriani has been playing well and probably deserves a start.

A disconsolate Jonny Wilkinson sits on the bench after being replaced against Scotland
It's a bit like the Beckham syndrome, whenever Beckham does anything, it's all over the papers

Paul Grayson

Jonny's profile is so high that it has almost become sacrilege to talk about him being left out.

He did a good job for Brian Ashton at the World Cup and Brian is loyal to him. It's a bit like the Beckham syndrome, whenever Beckham does anything, it's all over the papers.

You can't change 15 players. Is he the right man to leave out of the team? Well, Brian has made his decision and we'll know at the weekend. It's big news because it is Wilkinson.

I think you should pick players who are in form and whether that is Wilkinson or Cipriani, as long as England win, it will help the team progress.

Cipriani is a precocious talent, has had outstanding performances at full-back for Wasps and then was moved up to fly-half once he found his feet.

He has pace and likes to play an attacking game.

He has what comes with youth - that joie de vivre - he can throw off the shackles of the pressure that comes with an England performance, and he can go out and play the game.

There will be added pressure on him, because of the antics of last week, but he is a robust lad and has made it clear he thinks he is good enough to play international rugby.

I'm sure Jonny Wilkinson will be the last thing on his mind.

Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
Former England centre

I don't see any harm in dropping Wilkinson.

The clamour for him to be dropped was overwhelming and a coach can stand by a player for only so long.

He had a poor 40 minutes against Wales in the second half, a similar 40 minutes against Italy in the second half and then the same for the whole 80 minutes against Scotland, and in a key position.

As a World Cup-winner and as a player who was considered the best in his position, to have such a lacklustre, rudderless performance, even with a pack going backwards, was unacceptable.

I am surprised he is the only change. Everybody that's left can consider themselves incredibly lucky and this should definitely be the last-chance saloon.

After a performance like that every single one of those players can consider themselves the luckiest players in England to have retained their jerseys.

Sometimes a change is as good as anything. I hope Cipriani just plays in his own way and doesn't conform too much.

With someone like him, you can't always tell him what to do - people have got to react off him.

This isn't necessarily going to be an instant remedy for what we've been seeing, but what it hopefully will bring is a refreshing approach.




see also
Cipriani takes Wilkinson's place
11 Mar 08 |  English
Ashton determined to make amends
09 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Pundits on Scotland v England
09 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Woodward slams Cipriani decision
09 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 15-9 England
08 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson sets new points record
08 Mar 08 |  English


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