Jonny Wilkinson: I could have thrown my life away with concussions

Posted by Sonja in Feb 11,2015 with No Comments

As ever, Jonny Wilkinson was hurling himself into the tackle with abandon. “It was against Bayonne, away,” he recalls. “I went to smash their back row and caught his elbow right on the chin. I reeled away and hit the floor, came to a little and thought, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

He was in that dangerous, insensate daze, of the same kind that assailed George North when the Welsh wing fell flat on the Cardiff turf last Friday night. “The Toulon medical staff told me, ‘You’re not right, you have to come off,’ ” Wilkinson says.

“Then I noticed my wrist was really sore. I looked at the video and saw that when I fell, my elbow went right over the wrist. So, I sat down on the bench, and Felipe Contepomi went on in my place.

“Seven minutes later, he was back beside me, because he had been knocked out as well. He was face down on the floor, face in the mud, with his arms splayed out. When he came around, he kept asking me the same question, over and over again. I told him, ‘You have already asked me this, God knows how many times.’ I looked at Felipe and thought, ‘Are you concussed and I’m not?’ I knew exactly what the score was, what was happening in the game. I asked myself whether I should still have been out there.”

It is complex for Wilkinson. Everything always is. The intrinsic perils of rugby have instinctively been embraced to the exclusion of any notion of self-preservation. Last season, however, another grimly similar incident against Exeter in the Heineken Cup gave him pause.

“It rattled my head so much, my brain must have moved. I went to walk off and I felt as if I was going over my toes. I was stumbling around, seeing stars.”

The problem, one highlighting the imperative for clear concussion protocols, was that nobody could definitively instruct him on what to do next. “I needed someone to tell me, clearly, if I was playing or not,” Wilkinson argues. “Who is qualified to make that decision? You tend to know your own body the best. But sometimes, the person looking after you has his or her hands tied by the club, by the pressures of promotion or relegation. No wonder it is a tough area. No wonder no one can find the answer.”

Wilkinson has withstood more than his reasonable quotient of big hits. Opeti Fonua, the Tongan No 8 often dubbed a tank in human form, steamrollered him with such ferocity during Toulon’s game against Agen in 2013 that he lay splayed on the field like a rag doll. Despite being passed fit to carry on after a cursory concussion check, he left the field moments later clutching a giant ice pack.

It is in reliving episodes like this that Wilkinson, for all his notorious obsessiveness, questions whether it was all worth it. He has been married for 18 months. He might want children. He might wish to carry on the mentoring he is conducting here for the Sky Academy on the playing fields of Guildford County School, where his teenage pupils in a kicking class are being taught to bisect the posts with that familiar metronomic brilliance.

What bewilders Wilkinson, in retrospect, is why he would put all of this at such risk. “What I do know, having retired, is how long a life you have after the game,” he says.

“During your career you think, ‘Yeah, it’s fine.’ But I look back at some of the decisions I made and I wonder about them.

“This is serious now. This is my life. I’ve got another 50 years of it, I hope. I look back and I think that I could have been throwing all that away, just because I wanted to play another 20 minutes in one game, showing the guys that I was up for it and proving to myself that I could do it. I’ve watched guys take hits, and I’ve taken a few myself where I have been completely out of it.”

The complication, he claims, is in coming to any quick judgments about the severity of a head injury. “One concussion could look worse than another and not be. Dean Ryan was knocked out in a game at Gateshead against Bath, soon after I had arrived at Newcastle. He was ready to go back on and the doctors told him not to. I watched that back recently, thinking, ‘Thank God he didn’t. It was a bad one. I appreciate that I have a long life. I tend to think now, ‘This is fun. I want it to last longer than my rugby did’.”

We should not presume from this that Wilkinson is finding the experience of being put out to pasture a seamless one. To speak to him during the grip of his rugby addiction was
to fear that he might be crawling up the wall the day that he finally hung up his spikes.

We should be simply be grateful, then, that last summer he was able to achieve the denouement at Toulon he craved, with a famous double of European and French domestic glory.

For he does even allow himself to contemplate what could have happened otherwise.

“It was all about how it would end,” he admits. “If I had faced a kick to win one of those games and it hadn’t gone right, what would I be doing now? Would I be saying,
‘Please sign me up, I’ll take any contract, just get me back in that team so that I can put it right?’ It would have been hard. That’s all I know. I would have struggled, hugely. There has to be a point where you say, ‘This is it’.

When I played tennis with my brother, we used to knock up balls for hours. And it was always a case of ‘one more, one last set’. Whereas I knew, this time, that my last shot would really be the last. And it scared the hell out of me.”

Wilkinson is a character so racked by self-reproach that he still, extraordinarily, castigates himself for mistakes that he made 20 years ago. He has won a World Cup, a Six Nations Grand Slam, every trophy there is to win in France, but he continues to torture himself over tiny lapses in regular-season games that everybody else has long forgotten about.

“I threw an interception last year against Grenoble, which lost us the game in the final two minutes. Even now, an image from that moment will flash up in my head and stop me dead.”

I look askance at him, but he is being serious. “I have done it all my life. There have been certain things I have regretted in my career, which have stuck in my mind, and I still think about them. I can go through a day being really happy, and then think, ‘Oh, God.’ It could be a fluffed kick back when I was really young. There are bad games with England where I think, ‘I just can’t go there.’

“If I go into that hole, I just can’t get out. And the most serious hole would have been created by the last game. Fortunately, the final note I left on was standing at the top of the steps lifting a trophy. I can handle that.”

Source: Telegraph

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Jonny Wilkinson: Sky Academy Ambassador holds Sky Sports Living for Sport skills session

Posted by Sonja in Feb 11,2015 with No Comments

Sky Academy Ambassador, Jonny Wilkinson, visited Guildford County School as part of Sky Academy initiative, Sky Sports Living for Sport, to inspire students to achieve their potential by taking part in a practical rugby skills session.

In Jonny’s first visit in his new Ambassador role, he met over 30 students who have benefited from taking part in Sky Sports Living for Sport He was joined by Sky Sports Living for Sport Athlete Mentors, Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi and captain of the GB National Wheelchair Rugby Team, Steve Brown, who held a practical Six Keys to Success session based around the life skills athletes identified as helping them find success in sport.
Students had the opportunity to hear Jonny talk about his personal experiences about how the life skills learnt through sport have helped him on and off the pitch.

“It was fantastic to meet the students at Guildford County School. You could see how much they are getting out of taking part in Sky Academy by being involved in a Sky Sports Living for Sport project,” said Wilkinson.

“It is teaching them about many of the skills and behaviours that I learnt on the pitch over the years that have helped me so much throughout all aspects of my life.”

Nikki Sullivan, PE teacher at Guildford County School said: “Having Jonny, Maggie and Steve here has been a fantastic boost for our students, motivating them to give and achieve their very best in sport and beyond. It’s really put the spotlight on sport’s role in building valuable life skills. Our students have shown great focus in their rugby activities with Jonny. He embodies what can be achieved, with determination, both on the sports pitch and in life. I’m sure our students will reflect on and remember what they’ve learnt today for years to come.

“Our partnership with Sky Sports Living for Sport has been inspirational for both the students and the school as a whole. It has provided a fresh, positive challenge to extend our students’ development beyond the curriculum.”

Jonny has joined a team of Ambassadors, including Great Britain Olympic Champions Jessica Ennis-Hill and Darren Campbell, plus our Irish Ambassador Olympic Boxer Katie Taylor, alongside our team of 90 world-class Athlete Mentors who visit schools and support teachers to deliver Sky Sports Living for Sport.

The Sky Sports Living for Sport initiative has been running in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust since 2003 and this academic year alone over 1500 UK secondary schools and 175 Irish secondary schools will take part in Sky Sports Living for Sport.

To find out more or to get involved with Sky Sports Living for Sport visit www.skysports.com/livingforsport

Source: Sky Sports.com

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Jonny Wilkinson and Chris Robshaw both believe England can win the Six Nations

Posted by Sonja in Feb 05,2015 with No Comments

England face Wales in the RBS Six Nations opener in Cardiff on Friday with Stuart Lancaster’s side seeking a championship title or Grand Slam as a precursor to their challenge at the World Cup.

Here, Sportsmail joins Test captain Chris Robshaw and World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson – who savoured European and global success with England – to discuss the week ahead and the events to follow…

CHRIS FOY: Does it feel like you’re being pitched straight in at the deep end in this Six Nations?

CHRIS ROBSHAW: Very much so. It was the same last year away to France. We fell five minutes short of an 80-minute performance which cost us the game and, potentially, a Grand Slam. Going to Wales, after what happened to us there in 2013 (losing 30-3), we have a core group of players who experienced that and I’m sure we’ll be more prepared this time.

FOY: There has been so much focus on that 2013 game – was that one of your worst days as a Test player and how determined are you to banish those ghosts?

ROBSHAW: It was. To have a loss like that, the biggest loss (by England) against Wales and that place in the history books is not a nice thing to have on your CV. We found ourselves chasing the game, the crowd were on top of us and they had all the momentum, so the floodgates opened. We want to rectify that and we’ll be ready for everything.

FOY: Jonny, did you find Cardiff one of the toughest places to go as an England player?

JONNY WILKINSON: It’s a hell of a place to go. In 2013, England knew Wales would come out firing, but they just couldn’t realise how much. It is impossible to be prepared for how much a community and a country can turn up the pressure. When you have thousands of people sitting together watching rugby, how can it be so different? But it is there. Wales in the Millennium Stadium manages to produce a unique atmosphere.

FOY: What makes the England-Wales rivalry so special and intense?

ROBSHAW: A lot comes down to how well they have done in recent years. They’ve won Grand Slams and we want those honours for ourselves. In 2013 we probably didn’t know quite what it meant, to go into the heartland of Wales to try to win a Grand Slam. Stuart spoke to us about going into the eye of a storm and that’s what it was. That passion we experienced has really built that rivalry among us players.

WILKINSON: What comes to the fore when England play Wales is that they will do anything to defend the pride and honour of their country. That makes it a really physical battle but Wales also have some of that ‘French flair’, too. When we played them in the quarter-final of the World Cup in 2003, I’d never been attacked like that before. They just went for it, and that is what Wales can do to you.

FOY: How relevant is this game to the World Cup pool match later in the year

WILKINSON: You could play this game then play each other again the week after and the result could be very different. When you think like that, eight months is a long time so whoever wins this game won’t necessarily win the next. But it is a huge opportunity to become familiar with the intensity that will be required.

ROBSHAW: There is a lot riding on this game, with everything coming up, but eight months is a long time to keep developing – and we will be playing that World Cup game at Twickenham, which is important. I know they kindly offered to stage it in Cardiff but I’m glad it’s going to be here! This trip to the Millennium Stadium will produce a similar amount of pressure as we’ll have to deal with at the World Cup, so this will be useful mental preparation.

FOY: How crucial is it for England to win the Six Nations title or Grand Slam to create momentum?

ROBSHAW: After three second-place finishes of course we want to go one better this time, but a lot of the northern-hemisphere teams went well in the autumn and we all want to finish top of the pile in Europe, to give us that extra confidence going into the World Cup.

WILKINSON: During my career, there were definitely moments when we cleared major psychological barriers. Beating Australia in 2000 – when we won in the last minute – was one and the Grand Slam in 2003 was another. Even if we hadn’t won it, I still think we were on the right track for the World Cup that year. You want to clear those psychological barriers, but England beat New Zealand in 2012 by a hell of a score and nobody thought, “That’s it, we’ve cracked it”.

FOY: A home World Cup will put huge pressure on the England captain. How will you cope with that, Chris?

ROBSHAW: The good thing about it being a home World Cup is that, when you have the occasional day off, you can go home, see loved ones and escape the rugby bubble. We’re not quite sure about the magnitude of it yet, but escaping the pressure is all about surrounding yourself with the right people and switching off when you can. You have to be focused on the job, but it is important from that mental side to have a down day now and again.

FOY: Jonny, how do you assess the progress Chris has made as a player and as England captain?

WILKINSON: When I first came into the England squad, I felt like a rabbit in the headlights but Chris seemed to fit in straightaway. He is full of respect and good values, but when he’s out on the field you give him a job and he does it right every time.

He just gets on with things without making a big song and dance. He has grown and grown, and shown his strength of character so many times.

What you want your captain to do is make good choices, do the right things and lead by example. Chris does all that and he’s a nice bloke, so playing against him must be so difficult. He has respect and his players will see that, which means that they will follow him.

FOY: George Ford has emerged as England’s first-choice fly-half, and Owen Farrell is injured. Jonny, how do you rate the young playmaker who will wear No 10 and the other, who will be missed?

WILKINSON: George Ford is a fabulous player who produces some amazing touches and is a natural in the way he reads the game. He works hard and as a young guy he is happy to take on responsibility and shows he can deal with it.

Owen Farrell is immensely tough mentally and deserves a hell of a lot more credit than he has been getting for what he has done in the last few years.

As a young guy, he has dealt with pressure, kicked goals and stood up in defence. He came in without much experience but just got on with it. England are lucky to have both those guys.

Source: Daily Mail

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Jonny Wilkinson, Emily Scarratt and Brian O’Driscoll honoured by the Rugby Union Writers’ Club

Posted by Sonja in Jan 13,2015 with No Comments

Emily Scarratt has won the prestigious Rugby Union Writers’ Club Pat Marshall Memorial Award as the sport’s personality of the year for 2014.

Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O’Driscoll have also been honoured, receiving the RUWC’s discretionary Special Award for their services to rugby during distinguished careers.

The awards were presented to Scarratt and Wilkinson at a gala ceremony in central London on Monday night, with O’Driscoll unable to attend due to family commitments.

Scarratt is recognised after playing a key role in England’s World Cup triumph in France last summer that saw her contribute 16 points in the final as Canada were dispatched 21-9, a haul that included a dazzling solo try.

The 24-year-old from Lichfield, who can play outside centre or full-back, finished as the tournament’s top points scorer with 70 and has amassed 55 caps since making her debut against the United States in 2008.

She becomes the second woman to win the award after England team-mate Maggie Alphonsi was honoured in 2010. Scarratt was joined on the four-strong shortlist by World Cup captain Katie McLean.

Completing the quartet were Wilkinson and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, who steered the Irish to the 2014 RBS 6 Nations title and a clean sweep of autumn victories over South Africa, Georgia and Australia in his first full year in charge.

The Special Award has been won by Wilkinson and O’Driscoll to mark the end of two outstanding playing careers after the British and Irish Lions duo chose the end of the 2013-14 season to retire.

England’s World Cup-winning fly-half Wilkinson and Ireland’s all-time great O’Driscoll were named personality of the year in 2002 and 2009 respectively and now follow in the footsteps of Lawrence Dallaglio, the only other player to have won both awards.

Source: Daily Mail

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Happy New Year!!

Posted by Sonja in Dec 31,2014 with No Comments

What an amazing year 2014 turned out to be!!

In May Jonny announced his retirement from rugby, the man who kicked the worlds most famous drop goal was hanging up his boots.

He had no time to sit back, relax (if he ever does!) and reflect, he had his to last two games to prepared for, two finals.

Over the next two weeks Jonny lead Toulon to victory in both the Heineken Cup against Saracens in Cardiff, his last game in British soil and to Champions of France in Paris, his final ever game.

The jubilant and emotional celebrations after both games was amazing and watching Jonny lift both trophies was a perfect and fitting end to such an amazing rugby Journey.

I can honestly say I shed a tear when the final whistle went in Paris and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, there can not have been a rugby fan out there who did not want this fairytale ending.

The tributes poured in from around the world, hero, inspirational, legend, words used over and over. Jonny’s drop goal on that night in Sydney was relived by England fans who will never forget such a moment and who gave it to us.

I will always support and man who pulls on the 10 shirt for England, cheer him on and be grateful for the points his boot gives us but a part of me will always want it to be that man with that famous pose.

As 2015 approaches and Jonny takes on new challenges, we wish him well and hope the year ahead for him, Shelley and their families is a great one.

Happy New year everyone we wish you health, love and happiness for the coming year and we thank you for your banter, links and pictures, you are all what makes Wilkofans such an amazing site.

See you in 2015.

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No knighthood for Jonny Wilkinson in New Years hours list

Posted by admin in Dec 31,2014 with No Comments

Reports that the rugby star Jonny Wilkinson was soon to be Sir Jonny have proven to be groundless and prompted an investigation into how individuals are wrongly named as receiving honours.

From reading all your tweets it’s a big mistake but the French seem to already class him as ‘Sir Jonny’ so why not us? Hehe maybe next year!

Sara

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England rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson to be knighted in New Year’s Honours next

Posted by admin in Dec 27,2014 with No Comments

Rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson is to set to ­receive a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year Honours next week.

The 35-year-old, who ­inspired England to World Cup glory in Sydney in 2003, has had a glittering 17-year career.

But he is also being ­recognised for his ­extensive charity work in Britain, including for the NSPCC, and in France, where he played for Toulon for five years.

A well-placed source said tonight: “Jonny is one of Britain’s greatest-ever sportsmen.

“He has always represented England with distinction. He is a hero and a shining example to millions around the world. He thoroughly deserves this.”

Wilkinson, who played fly-half and inside centre, announced his retirement from rugby union in May. He spent 12 seasons with Newcastle Falcons before joining Toulon in 2009.

His performance in the Sydney World Cup earned him the OBE in the 2004 New Year Honours list.

Wilkinson kicked a last-minute drop-goal in extra time to seal victory over Australia in the final – and had earlier kicked all of England’s points in their 24-7 semi-final win over France.2007, he overtook Gavin Hastings as the tournament’s all-time high-scorer.

He became the first player to pass 1,000 points for England in 2008, overtaking Argentine Hugo Porta’s world record, and the next month was confirmed as test ­rugby’s leading scorer.

Wilkinson is one of just five men to score more than 1,000 points in international rugby and the only player to score points in two separate World Cup finals.

He married long-term ­girlfriend Shelley in 2013 and has won BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The star has been tipped for a knighthood repeatedly though his career was blighted by injuries.

Source Mirror Sport mirror.co.uk

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Merry Christmas

Posted by Sonja in Dec 24,2014 with No Comments

We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Have a fantastic Christmas everyone, have fun, eat, drink be merry and stay safe.

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11 years ago today – Jonny Wilkinson…. he’s done it!!

Posted by Sonja in Nov 22,2014 with No Comments

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England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson gives inspiring bilingual team talk in amazing video

Posted by Sonja in Nov 08,2014 with No Comments

It’s hard enough giving a passionate team talk in your native language.

But England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson does it in both English and French.

Wilkinson, 35, delivered the epic speech as he captained former team Toulon to a European double earlier this year.

The French side beat Castres 18-10 in June to win the French Top 14 final, just eight days after retaining the Heineken Cup by beating Saracens.

Wilkinson’s inspirational half-time speech appears in a teaser for a film about Toulon’s double-winning season ‘En route vers le double’.

He stands at the head of his teammates, who listen intently before they touch hands and shout enthusiastically as they head out for the second-half.

Wilkinson, who retired from the sport following the double triumph, was awarded honorary citizenship of Toulon by the city’s mayor as the curtain came down on his glittering career.

Mirror

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