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Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Saturday, 24 October 2009 12:15 UK

Wilkinson 'better than in 2003'

Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson has helped establish Toulon in the top half of the Top 14

Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson believes he is a better player now than when he kicked England to victory in the 2003 World Cup.

Now fully fit after a catalogue of injuries, the 30-year-old is expected to be named in the England squad to face Australia on 7 November.

And the former Newcastle player says he will return much improved.

"People ask me: 'Will you ever be like you were in 2003?' The answer is: 'I am way better now'," he told the Times.

Wilkinson sealed his place as an English sporting hero when his last-minute drop-goal secured a 20-17 victory over hosts Australia in the 2003 World Cup final.

Since then, a series of injury problems have limited his involvement with club and country, although he did return to the England fold to play an important part in their journey to the final of the 2007 World Cup in France.

Back then it was like a headache trying to work out 100 things at once - it is almost like you are dissecting and composing all the time

England icon Jonny Wilkinson

Wilkinson, who left Newcastle in the summer to join ambitious French club Toulon, believes he has improved as a player because he now has much greater experience.

"I am undoubtedly better. There is no way that the 2001 version would have been able to deal with the 2007 World Cup experience," explained Wilkinson.

"I don't know how I would have dealt with it. I wouldn't have had the intelligence or the experience.

"I was suited to 2001 or 2003 because I was surrounded by people like Mike Catt, (Kyran) Bracken or (Matt) Dawson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood, Martin Johnson, pillars all around me.

"I was doing things because I was getting a load of help from them. But that person in 2007, or here in France? Not a chance. I am way better now because I understand what is going on.

"Back then it was like a headache trying to work out 100 things at once. It is almost like you are dissecting and composing, all the time.


"That much mental strain with the pressure of playing at a high level when I was young, without all that help, wouldn't have combined.

"Now I am processing it without too much effort."

England have seen a host of players ruled out of the forthcoming November internationals because of injury.

With Toby Flood injured Wilkinson is the only fit fly-half in the England elite squad, while England Saxons fly-halves Danny Cipriani, Stephen Myler and Sam Vesty are all injured.

Elite squad inside-centre Riki Flutey is also out of action, as is Saxons number 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, and Wilkinson looks set to be partnered by Shane Geraghty in midfield.

However, having suffered shoulder, knee, arm, kidney, hernia and rib problems over recent years, Wilkinson remains cautious about the possibility of being involved in England's first international of the season, against Australia.

Asked if he thinks about returning to training with England he admitted: "A little bit. That's natural, but something about me just knocks it straight back.

"If it (a call-up) happens, it will be absolutely amazing."

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see also
Vickery joins England casualties
20 Oct 09 |  English
In-form Wilkinson sinks Saracens
15 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson-Geraghty 'an ideal mix'
06 Oct 09 |  English
Reihana tips Geraghty for England
28 Sep 09 |  Northampton
England hit by Turner-Hall injury
24 Sep 09 |  English
Michalak hails Wilkinson comeback
20 Sep 09 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson shines on French debut
14 Aug 09 |  Rugby Union
Wilkinson key for England - Corry
05 Aug 09 |  English
Wilkinson returns to England fold
07 Jul 09 |  English

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