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  Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 14:11 GMT
My biggest challenge
Taine Randell's All Blacks are first up at Twickenham
Taine Randell's All Blacks are first up at Twickenham
In his exclusive column, England and Newcastle fly-half Jonny Wilkinson looks ahead to the greatest challenge of his career.

The big three are coming.

And if past experience is anything to go by, they will arrive in a hail of blood and gumshields.

The matches, if you read the newspapers, are described as 'friendlies'.

Well, perhaps it's about time we coined a new phrase, because there's nothing remotely friendly about facing the strongest rugby nations in the planet on back-to-back weekends.

There is no greater challenge in world rugby than playing against the southern hemisphere triumvirate of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

It's tantalising, worrying, enticing, thought provoking and a hundred other things. But it's definitely not friendly.

I've already been lucky enough to experience some great matches in my career.

But make no bones about it, the next five weeks are the most important yet.

Even in a World Cup you don't get to play the Big Three in such a short space of time and the anticipation, both among fans and players, is huge.

It's a wonderfully combustible mix, that's for sure. A sauté of Kiwi bootlace, a canette of Australian rump followed by a fricassee of foaming Springbok.

The question is: can England stomach it?

Well, we think we can and believe me, this international squad is a little bit special.


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It's always been a hugely competitive arena, but now fans of the red rose have even more reason to smile.

The sheer number of players who could make the final XV is immense. This time around, there are no guarantees for anyone.

There are no names already pencilled in on the teamsheet.

Clive Woodward has an abundance of natural talent and hardworking men at his disposal and it is both a delight and an honour to be part of the squad.

With games as enticing as the forthcoming matches it can be difficult to keep your mind on other things.

But with one more domestic match before the part-time international season kicks in, I have no other choice.


When I close my eyes I can already hear the thunder of All Black feet approaching
Our victory against Sale was undoubtedly the highest point of the season for Newcastle so far. And to grab a bonus point was even more special.

We let ourselves down badly in the first part of the season.

But I think, at last, we are finally starting to play together as a team.

Personally, I'm still going through a learning process and finding my feet as captain.

What's vital now is a good result against London Irish this weekend - for the club and for me!

Here's an admission for you: I'm quite a nervous character, so going into the New Zealand game on the back of a victory would be a real confidence booster.

I'll be doing my best to make that happen, because when I close my eyes I can already hear the thunder of All Black feet approaching.


England v Australia

England v NZ

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See also:

29 Oct 02 | International
28 Oct 02 | International
29 Oct 02 | International
28 Oct 02 | International
Links to more Jonny Wilkinson stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more Jonny Wilkinson stories

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