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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 08:55 GMT
Shouldering the burden

By Jonny Wilkinson
England and Newcastle fly-half

Another game, another shoulder injury. But, fingers crossed, I won't be adding to what has become a long England injury list.

I've been given the all-clear by the England physios and I'm looking forward to putting my Newcastle shirt on this weekend against Leicester.

I was absolutely devastated when the decision was made to take me off at the start of the second half against Italy.

I felt I could have played on - though when I woke up on Monday I realised it was a wise move.

Apart from the usual aches - my left shoulder was very sore. But the pain I felt was nothing compared to that experienced by Charlie Hodgson.

The news that his knee injury is likely to force him out of the World Cup is a desperate blow to England.

He's a remarkable player and a great guy to have around the camp.

I haven't been able to speak to him since his scan on Tuesday but it's one of those situations where no amount of words can make up for his disappointment.

A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament is a terrible injury to sustain - especially so early into his international career.

I've read reports that Clive Woodward was considering resting me against Scotland and giving Charlie a full game at fly-half.

That's obviously not going to happen now and all I can say is that I'm always keen to get involved in any and every match England play.

We've become a very self-critical side, so although we were delighted to get another win under our belts, we were frustrated at our inability to keep Italy under the cosh.

Having said that, they have developed into a very tough side, able to control possession and dictate the game.

Josh Lewsey
Josh Lewsey had an impressive international outing at full-back
It's difficult to be too downcast, however, and there were some wonderful performances from our newcomers.

I though Josh Lewsey looked every part the international full-back.

The same goes for James Simpson-Daniel and Ollie Smith, who both played with passion and commitment.

The Italians will be rightly disappointed with the final scoreline of 40-5. It didn't reflect their dominance and it again highlighted a number of weaknesses with the way we're playing.

We let the Italians in and gave them opportunities. Had we been playing against another side, our inability to get our hands on the ball could have proved far more costly.

Having said that, we're sitting atop the Six Nations table and we have no intention of giving it up.

Ireland, as suspected, are hot on our heels and are sure be a very tough challenge in Dublin.

Every time they run onto the pitch their body language says only one thing: 'We're here to win'.

They have developed into a great, great team, I only hope we both remain unbeaten ahead of what looks set to be this season's biggest game yet.

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