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Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 15:49 UK

Wilkinson freed from fear of failure

Jonny Wilkinson pictured during Newcastle v Northampton
Wilkinson said he had 'been living a life in which I barely featured'

Jonny Wilkinson has revealed the secret of his new-found relaxed approach to life - the joys of quantum physics and Buddhism.

The 29-year-old, whose drop-goal won the 2003 Rugby World Cup for England, has been sporting long hair and a new found sense of serenity this season.

Speaking to the Times newspaper ahead of its serialisation of his new book - under the unimprovable headline "The solace of quantum physics" - Wilkinson said: "I did not know what it really meant to be happy.

"I was afflicted by a powerful fear of failure and did not know how to free myself from it."

And he revealed that within 24 hours of England's World Cup final victory over Australia in Sydney, he felt his life "was tumbling out of control".

His off-field issues were then compounded by an appalling run of injuries which prevented him from pulling on the red rose for over three years.

But the time he would have rather spent on a rugby pitch gave him the chance to delve into science and spirituality, helping the famously-intense Wilkinson develop a new perspective on life.


"I read about Schrodinger's Cat [a renowned thought experiment in physics] and it had a huge effect on me," he said.

"It was all about the idea that an observer can change the world just by looking at something; the idea that mind and reality are somehow interconnected.

"It is difficult to put into words, but it hit me like a steam train.

"I came to understand that I had been living a life in which I barely featured," he said.

"I do not like religious labels, but there is a connection between quantum physics and Buddhism, which I was also getting into.

"Failing at something is one thing, but Buddhism tells us that it is up to us how we interpret that failure.

Jonny Wilkinson is tackled against Northampton
Wilkinson has decided to let his hair grow to represent his new self

"The so-called Middle Way is about seeing everything as interconnected - success and failure, victory and defeat.

"Who is to say that the foundations of success in the 2003 World Cup were not built on the failures that went before?"

However, for all his new-found peace of mind Wilkinson admitted that he has not changed his nature but learned to control it better.

Asked it he is still a bit of a perfectionist he replied: "Yes, enormously so. But this journey has been about learning to find the switch to turn it on and off when I need to.

"My obsessiveness is, in some ways, one of my greatest strengths - the ability to stay out there practising until things are right.

"But it's not a good thing if you don't have control of it. Now I can step back after a practice session and say 'are you sure you want to do some more?'

"Even if things have not gone perfectly I have the ability to flick the switch and go home and enjoy my weekend."

see also
Wilkinson key for Falcons - Bates
19 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Jeremy Guscott column
19 Sep 08 |  English
Buist hails Newcastle camaraderie
17 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Newcastle 32-22 Northampton
14 Sep 08 |  English

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