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  Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 23:03 GMT
Don't mention the big 'R'
In his exclusive column, Newcastle captain Jonny Wilkinson discusses the looming prospect of relegation from the Premiership.

'To relegate or not to relegate': That is the current question facing English club rugby.

As the months go by, the subject fills more and more column inches and it just so happens that I'm in a good position to comment.

Wilkinson is in talks about his future at the club
Wilkinson is in talks about his future at the club
As captain of the club that's currently propping up the Zurich Premiership there's a lot of pressure on players and coaches alike.

When the possibility of relegation begins to haunt you, the emphasis quickly switches from long-term to short-term.

That's never a good thing - but it's the reality of the system we're currently playing under.

There are so many points, both for and against relegation, that it's never going to be a black and white subject.

A closed shop would give every club more security and allow us all to be more ambitious.

We could truly concentrate on the 'product' - creating clubs with quality facilities for players and fans that have a sound long-term financial future.

The good news is that my shoulder injury is progressing as planned

The problem is that relegation creates the one thing that makes people watch the game in the first instance; excitement.

Of course, one man's excitement is another man's fear. But as players we have to put that to the back of our minds and keep focussed.

And that can be difficult when you're on the physio's table.

The good news is that my shoulder injury is progressing as planned. I got the results of my scan this week and it was all very positive.

There was nothing out of the ordinary. I'm on the right track so I hope to be back in action before the new year.

When you're injured you have to use the time off to your advantage.

So I had a few days in Dubai this week to try and give myself a rest and to clear my mind.

Wilkinson's shoulder is healing well
Wilkinson's shoulder is healing well
As club captain, I need to make sure that I'm completely focussed. If the club continues to struggle then I'm the one who has to assume full responsibility.

On the question of my contract I'd like to clear a few things up. I've been involved in ongoing discussions for some time.

There's been lots of talk and I'm hoping to come to an agreement soon.

I have a great relationship with Rob Andrew and the club and I intend to do everything in my power to make sure Newcastle are playing Premiership rugby next term.

I owe Newcastle a lot - the club's in my blood. They've given me a job to do and I intend to do it.

Links to more Jonny Wilkinson stories are at the foot of the page.


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