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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 11:26 GMT
2002: My highs and lows
England fly-half and BBC Sport Online pundit Jonny Wilkinson gives his verdict on 2002 and offers an insight into what he hopes to achieve over the next 12 months.
With 2002 all but over, it's good to sit back, take a deep breath, and say thanks for a fine year of English rugby.
For fans and players alike there's been a great deal to celebrate and more than a few wins to savour.
The doubters may hark back to our defeat against France.
But if there is one thing we have proved to our critics - it's that we have got better. I just hope that we are learning from our mistakes.
With so many games to choose from it's difficult to highlight particular moments.
But, after much thought, here are my highs and lows of what has been a rollercoaster year.
Well, the obvious choice is any of the wins over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. But there were other high points.
The first - perhaps surprisingly - being our 45-11 win over Ireland.
I'd taken the summer off and had spent a lot of time thinking about the season ahead.
With no imminent matches to worry about, I managed to make myself a little nervous - and facing Ireland is always a tricky fixture.
The second moment? Well I can't choose between the victories over the Tri-Nations sides.
The three games were very different. But they were all satisfying in the extreme.
The victory against New Zealand was sweet because we managed to hold out despite their tough fightback.
The win against Australia was important because everything came together so well.
And our performance against the Springboks allowed us to play with confidence and run up a few tries.
Again - I can't choose one . Although it's been a great year for England, I've had a number of disappointments with my club Newcastle.
We started well with a 24-17 victory against Wasps, but things went wrong quickly with defeats against Northampton and Gloucester.
Our 19-22 loss to the West Country boys hit us hard. We played well and deserved to get something out of that game.
But we didn't and things haven't gone quite to plan since. As captain that's something I have to take responsibility for.
It was a similar story against France in March. The game could have gone either way, but, as history will forever record, Les Bleus sent us home with our tails between our legs.
It's been too long since England have won a Grand Slam - and it's a thought we will keep in our minds when the squad gets together with Clive Woodward in January.
Playing the Saints has always been tough, but their redeveloped ground is an even more imposing place to visit.
Needless to say we were roundly beaten 31-13 and it wasn't pretty in the dressing room afterwards I can tell you.
Best personal moment
Well, receiving an MBE in the New Year Honours list comes close, but I can't pretend that it's anything other than my try against New Zealand.
As I've said before in this column, I didn't necessarily think I'd be the one diving over the line when I chipped ahead inside the All Blacks' 22.
My kick was meant for Jason Robinson, but I managed to get there before him.
It would have meant nothing had we lost. But we didn't - so I can't help being thankful that things worked out.
As for my new title, I won't be using it too often! But I'm clearly delighted to have been honoured.
It is certainly a prestigious decoration - though I have to confess it came as something of a shock, to say the least
The year ahead
I have to consider why Newcastle haven't performed to the level we're capable of.
And I need to ask myself if there is any more I can do to help the team.
As a professional sportsman, it's vital I continue to get better and improve - both on and off the pitch.
I need to be more effective in everything I do as well as being more aware of the world around me.
It's vital I continue to shape myself, both as a rugby player and a human being.
Having said that, I think I'd settle for lifting the World Cup trophy in Sydney!
Keep your fingers crossed. Bring on 2003!
28 Nov 02 | Sports Reviews
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