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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 07:15 GMT
Why I snubbed Australia
In his latest exclusive column for BBC Sport Online, England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson explains why he failed to shake hands with Australia's players after Saturday's game.
The match had everything: power, pace, big hits and great tries.
All that and yet I failed to shake hands with any Australian player after the game.
Not George Gregan, not double try scorer Elton Flatley, not even my old rival Stephen Larkham
Why? Well, it's not what you think - there was no malice involved. I simply couldn't.
I had dislocated my finger during the final quarter of the match and the pain was excruciating.
So there were no handshakes and to top it all, I couldn't even lift the trophy.
But it's a small price to pay for victory over the current world champions.
I'm not sure what the Australian players made of it, but that's all in the past as far as I am concerned.
Coming back from 12 points down was satisfying in the extreme.
To have proved to ourselves we can cut it when things aren't going our way left everyone smiling in the changing room afterwards.
But we're only as good as our last game, so all efforts are now firmly focused on South Africa.
Defeating all three Tri-Nations sides on consecutive weekends has never before been achieved by any Northern Hemisphere side.
Victory over the Springboks would mark one of the most successful periods in English rugby history.
It would put down a marker ahead of the World Cup and provide further evidence that there is no longer any guarantee that next year's trophy will be held aloft by one of our friends from down south.
As a team, we're on the brink of something very special indeed and we can't afford to lose focus.
Are we a great side? Not yet, but we're getting there. We won't be until we lift the World Cup.
But we're travelling in the right direction.
No South African side in history has ever returned from a tour without winning a game, so, rest assured, Saturday will be no walk over.
As Ian McGeechan once said, there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded Springbok.
And defeats against Scotland and France mean that they are playing for pride here on in.
Their performances thus far have prompted some harsh criticism from the European press, so I can only imagine how their tour has been reported back home.
They will throw everything at us this weekend. I only hope that it's all legal.
In the past 12 meetings between the two countries, the bragging rights are evenly poised at six all.
There is no such thing as an easy ride against South Africa and anyone who saw their performances in this year's Tri-Nations is well aware of what they can achieve.
They narrowly lost out against New Zealand at home and then defeated Australia 33-31 in Johannesburg.
A lot of history and tradition goes into wearing the Springbok badge. As a side they never lie down - they fight to the end.
So, I've no doubt that it's going to be a spicy fixture. However much we try to focus on the present, both sides know that we'll be facing off against each other in the same World Cup group next year.
As a team we've not talked about it too much. But the reality is that a good victory now would give us huge confidence come September next year.
He's a superb talent, but so is his replacement, Phil Christophers.
Phil showed he had the ability on tour in Argentina and fully deserves his chance. It's his first start for England at home, if you discount the clash against the Barbarians, and he is relishing the opportunity to prove himself.
I just hope the pitch on Saturday is a little less greasy. Losing your footing is the last thing you need when the world champions are attacking.
So it wasn't one of my greatest moments when the Aussies crossed before the break.
As Elton Flatley started to celebrate, I found myself, rather humbly, on my backside. But you can't plan for when your feet slip from under you. It's just one of those things.
Perhaps understandably, I've had a few jibes from the boys and watching the video has been painful, I can tell you.
I don't intend to find myself in a similar position come Saturday.
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