Sport

Jonny Wilkinson should start World Cup at fly-half says Australia legend Lynagh

By Paul Eddison

JONNY Wilkinson admits he never wants to see his 2003 World Cup winning drop-goal again but ex-Australia fly-half Michael Lynagh believes it’s indicative of exactly why he must be given the No.10 jersey in New Zealand.

The 32-year-old played second fiddle to former Falcons understudy Toby Flood throughout England’s first triumphant Six Nations campaign since 2003 earlier this year but as the countdown to the 2011 World Cup gets louder, so do the clamours for Wilkinson to start at fly-half.

Towards the end of the season, Flood’s form dipped but Wilkinson’s sky-rocketed at Toulon and in England’s first World Cup warm-up match against Wales he served up an imperious masterclass, staying cool while his team-mates floundered and chalked up 13 points in the 23-19 win.

A week later Flood was given his chance to reassert his authority in Cardiff but he flattered to deceive in the 19-9 loss and Wilkinson took another step towards a 15th career World Cup start against Argentina on September 10.

And Lynagh believes England head coach Martin Johnson, with whom Wilkinson won the World Cup in 2003, cannot overlook his former team-mate’s reliability.

“If I was a betting man, I would think Johnson’s number one would be Wilkinson,” said Lynagh, who won the World Cup at Twickenham in 1991.

“He’s done it before and done it with Johnson, which would be harsh on Flood.

“Now he’s only just back [to his best] but if I was a betting man, I would look to Johnson thinking to himself, Jonny’s got to play, because he’s worth 15 points a game.

“And his experience is pretty important but it depends who you put around him.”

According to Lynagh however, all is not lost for Flood and while the Australian all-time point’s scorer would play Wilkinson at fly-half, he can envisage the Toulon ace featuring at inside centre.

New Zealand born Shontayne Hape appears to be Johnson’s first choice at the moment but he and midfield partner Mike Tindall came in for a barrage of criticism after defeat to Wales – and Lynagh believes something has to change.

“I do think there’s a possibility we could see both of Wilkinson and Flood. I’d like to see that, in the next match [against Ireland] perhaps,” added Lynagh. “I wouldn’t mind having a look at Flood and Wilkinson playing 10 and 12.

“I don’t mind which way you play them, but it would be a combination that would be worth looking at because the 12 is a problem for England.”

Heroes Rugby Challenge, Saturday 3 December 2011 at Twickenham Stadium, kicks off at 1630. Ticket prices start at £30 for adults and are available through Ticketmaster www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 847 2492

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