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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Wilkinson finds Lions appetite
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport

The fly-half played majestically, prodding his back line and giving a perfect kicking display to leave his side on the brink of victory before injury cruelly cut him down.

Jonny Wilkinson took the hard knocks against Argentina
But enough about Federico Todeschini, how did opposite number Jonny Wilkinson fare on his first international appearance since claiming World Cup glory in 2003?

There could be little doubt of the swagger in the superstar's step from the moment he placed the first kick of the game on a plate for Lewis Moody to charge onto.

The passes were fired out confidently to the three-quarters, and the familiar charge, skip and off-load in the tackle set up the Lions' only try for Ollie Smith.

Seven goal kicks from seven attempts - the last the most difficult to salvage a draw for his team - suggest that the old killer, match-winning instinct is intact.

"I was desperate to do well and play my best, the touch is coming back but I'm taking it step-by-step," said Wilkinson post-match.

It's not about decision making but getting used to each other as a team
Jonny Wilkinson
"I've had plenty of games this season, but I'm still lacking that international experience."

Some of his tactical kicking was a cause for real concern, though.

There were too many missed touches and aimless punts down the centre of the field.

If Argentina lacked the pace to exploit the wayward efforts, Joe Rokocoko, Mils Muliaina and Doug Howlett would have been salivating at the prospect of so much free ball.

Wilkinson set up Ollie Smith for the Lions' only try
The wasted possession would also have alarmed the likes of Shane Williams, who knows from Wales' last two encounters with New Zealand that the All Blacks are vulnerable when you run at them with pace and purpose.

"It's not about decision making but getting used to each other as a team," claimed Wilkinson.

"It was a stop-start game and we were unable to keep the ball or use the strength of our players."

But his kicking and tactical approach are secondary considerations at the moment.

In his long international absence and stuttering return to the domestic scene, many felt that the fly-half's desire for rugby had gone.

Having achieved the game's ultimate prize at such a tender age and seen his body battered as a result, his future ambition has been questioned.

Stephen Jones is competing with Wilkinson for the Lions' fly-half spot
Analysis of his Newcastle performances revealed Wilkinson pulling out of tackles and wincing at contact, denting his hard-earned, much-feared reputation as the toughest-tackling number 10 in world rugby.

We may not have seen any of his classic, bone-shattering hits against the Pumas, but his defence was rock-solid, with strong, covering tackles stopping the bulk of Mario Ledesma and Pablo Bouza.

The enthusiasm in his work was clear to see as he fought for the ball on the floor and showed the anticipation to sweep up Argentine kicks.

Sir Clive Woodward has total confidence in the tactical ability of the man who won him the William Webb Ellis trophy.

With Wilkinson's body and mind back on track, it seems likely that Charlie Hodgson, Ronan O'Gara and Stephen Jones are already battling to be his Test back-up in New Zealand.




LIONS TOUR 2005

ALL BLACKS WHITEWASH LIONS




VOTE RESULTS
What was the main reason for the Lions' whitewash in NZ?
All Blacks just too good
58%
Woodward's selections
30%
Injuries to key players
6%
Squad was too big
6%
97190 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed



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