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Last Updated: Monday, 17 March 2008, 09:08 GMT
Wilkinson lauds Cipriani display
Danny Cipriani and Jonny Wilkinson discuss tactics during England's win over Ireland
Cipriani had Wilkinson alongside him for the last half-hour
Jonny Wilkinson says Danny Cipriani's first start for England was "a joy to watch" and "phenomenally impressive".

Wilkinson came off the bench to play alongside Cipriani, who scored 18 points in the 33-10 win over Ireland.

"That was a phenomenally impressive start," Wilkinson told The Times. "From where I was sitting for most of the game, it was a joy to watch.

"I'm asked what it was like to watch him play so well and it was fantastic. I'm genuinely delighted for him."

Wilkinson, who was dropped for only the second time in his career to make way for Cipriani, admits that in the past he may not have been so gracious in his praise.

"The sad thing is that in years gone by, that might not have been the case," he added.

"I can't deny that when Charlie Hodgson was making his mark on that position, I found it very hard to accept."

The way Danny Cipriani controlled and ran that England team was flawless, really

Lawrence Dallaglio

Some observers have suggested Wilkinson can now re-invent himself as an inside centre, where he appeared on Saturday, at Test level, a position he occupied when he broke through with Newcastle and England.

And former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio believes he will accept the challenge posed by Danny Cipriani and emerge a better player for it.

"Jonny has been a very special player and continues to be a very special talent," Dallaglio told BBC 5 Live.

"The challenge is taken either way. You either lie down and let someone else take your place, or you rise to it.

"I have no doubt Jonny will go away and work on the areas of his game that he feels he needs to improve."

"Jonny earned his reputation as an unbelievable player who tackled incredibly well, goal-kicked immaculately and had the ability to control the game," Dallaglio told Sportsweek.

606: DEBATE
"I think where Danny differentiates himself is he is prepared to play flatter and really get the back-line moving, which certainly showed on Saturday.

"It was a fantastic start for Danny given the pressure of the situation that he came under - he was the only change in the whole England team - so it was kind of 'this was the guy who was going to make the difference.'

"He played incredibly well. He did the simple things right and he did them very effectively.

"He looked like a man who had been playing international rugby for a long time, which is great for Danny and great for England that we've got a competitive situation in that position now.

"He was a guy making his first full start for England. I can remember my first start for England, and I was as nervous as anything. The way Danny controlled and ran that team was flawless, really."

Wilkinson, the world record points-scorer in Test rugby, earned his 70th England cap in the final Six Nations match of the season, coming on for Newcastle team-mate Toby Flood.

I've got loads to work on and I'm looking forward to getting back to being myself

Jonny Wilkinson
"[A place on the bench] is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination when you want something a hell of a lot," said Wilkinson, who received a huge roar from the Twickenham crowd when he ran on in the 53rd minute.

"But it's been an interesting way of looking at things and there's a lot to learn for me.

"You could see what a difference a fresh approach makes with Danny. He reacted instinctively with a mentality that said 'I'm here to have fun and make this my day and my team's day'.

"If I had lost any pride I might have said 'Who is this kid?', but that's not me.

"Danny has deserved his go and he took it brilliantly. Every day is a learning experience and I'm at a different angle now watching from the sidelines.

"It's something to take in, I've got loads to work on and I'm looking forward to getting back to being myself. I'm sure everybody will get behind me."



SEE ALSO
Cipriani lives up to the hype
16 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Cipriani credits pack for victory
15 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
England v Ireland ratings
15 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
England v Ireland match stats
31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
England 33-10 Ireland
15 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations photos
15 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Cipriani takes Wilkinson's place
11 Mar 08 |  English
Cipriani axed from England team
06 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union


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