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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jonny Wilkinson did not need bailing out during 2003 Rugby World Cup final says former team-mate Mike Catt

"That's why Jonny did come under a bit of pressure with his line kicking and with ball in hand but it was the team's failing, not his, and the solution was pretty simple for an experienced and confident side, which is what we were.

"The pack raised their game and Clive Woodward sent me on to provide the second kicking option which was the main, but very simple tactical switch.

"We then stood either side of the scrums, Jonny left and me right, and we hoofed it 60m downfield to get us on the front foot and the nature of the game soon changed.

"For some reason I got most of the credit – I did a decent job but no more – but the truth is everybody in the England team was part of the solution that night and Jonny was fantastic, kicking all his penalties as ever and adding a dropped goal as well if I remember."

After England's 28-17 win Catt was promoted to the starting fifteen a week later in the semi-final against France to play exactly the same subsidiary role alongside Wilkinson and four years later, in his rugby dotage, Catt was still serving precisely the same invaluable role in the latter stages of the 2007 World Cup.

Although different generations they worked supremely well together.

"It was always a pleasure playing alongside Jonny, we enjoyed some great matches together. When he first came into the squad as a youngster all he did was keep his mouth shut and perform, unlike somebody like Danny Cipriani.

"Week in week out, on the pitch and in training, he was exceptional and totally dedicated. He soon dragged some of us to new levels with his dedication to training and determination to master all the skills.

"You very quickly earn respect that way from your peers and Jonny soon had all that and more.

"My abiding memory of Jonny is not the dropped goal in the World Cup but that match against France in Paris very early in his career when he sent Emile Ntamack into orbit with one of his tackles.

"I was right alongside him in midfield and thought Ntamack was probably heading my way and I would have to make the hit but Jonny stepped in and sent him rocketing back.

"Technique and power and a load of courage as well. And discipline, he never overstepped the mark.

"He will miss Test rugby, there is nothing in life that recreates that buzz and its certainly the thing I have struggled with most since retiring but I think he's in a good place right now.

"Jonny has made a great life for himself in the south of France and they really love him in Toulon who are a very ambitious club. He is coming down nice and slowly.

"What I would say though is 'don't overdo it Jonny'. He seems pretty fit and healthy at the moment thank god but nobody has put his body on the line like Jonny has for club and country.

"He has broken and torn just about everything there is to break and tear, He has a long life to lead yet and it would be nice if some of that body was still in decent working order."

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