Wilkinson: 'It's do or die'
September 21, 2011
Jonny Wilkinson has said England's World Cup campaign has reached a crucial stage out in New Zealand © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson warned it is "do or die" for England at the World Cup - after manager Martin Johnson painted a doomsday scenario to his players.
The England squad have held a "brutally honest" summit meeting to review their disappointing performance in Sunday's victory over Georgia.
England eventually ran in six tries and won the game 41-10 but Johnson was furious at the lack of discipline in both defence and attack, accusing his team of being sloppy and demanding higher standards.
A place in the semi-finals represents England's minimum objective in New Zealand. Johnson addressed the meeting and, based on his own bitter experiences at the 1999 World Cup, explained in stark terms what it would mean to head home early.
"Johnno talked about watching the semi-final on TV and then going out to play Newcastle away. I know exactly what he was talking about because he was playing against me that day," said Wilkinson.
"In 1999 we got knocked out in the quarter-finals and the next weekend was possibly one of the coldest, rainiest days we had at Newcastle and we were playing against Leicester. "He's right, that's how it works. World Cups are do or die.
"Mistakes in a World Cup are going to cost you. They could have cost us very badly in the first half against Georgia. Thankfully for us, a few (of their penalty) kicks went wide and we were able to go into half-time in a good position - but who knows what will happen next time? We just can't afford to do it. That's why there is an urgency about the meetings, as sooner or later it will be something we can't come back from.
Top of England's list of issues to urgently address is the number of penalties they are conceding, a lack of discipline which could have cost them dear against both Argentina and Georgia.
Under Clive Woodward, England prided themselves on a single-digit penalty account for the whole match. On Sunday, England conceded 11 in the first half against Georgia - a record which led to them being unable to escape from their own territory.
England's disciplinary record against Argentina was not much better - but they got out of jail on both occasions. As Wilkinson intimated, Scotland's sharp-shooter extraordinaire Chris Paterson is unlikely to be quite so generous.
"It's just about being accountable," said Wilkinson. "It's a case of people realising that talking isn't going to cut it. It's the feeling that you've made the game harder for the England team. You are representing your country and it hurts more than enough.
"I've no doubt everyone learned something (from the meeting). The answer has got to be - be onside, be behind the back foot, take your hands off when the referee says it. The guys are taking this massively on board and guys are understanding now that once is a mistake, twice is a lot more than that and three times just can't happen."
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