Wilkinson slams World Cup organisers
November 7, 2011
Wilkinson endured a torrid time with the boot during the tournament © Getty Images
England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has revealed his anger at the match balls used during the 2011 World Cup and has hit out at the tournament organisers in the process.
Wilkinson suffered from some of the poorest kicking form of his career during the World Cup in New Zealand and pinpointed the unpredictable behaviour of the match balls as the root of the problem. England kicking coach Dave Alred and conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon were banned from England's pool game against Scotland at Eden Park after they switched the balls used for conversions during the win over Romania.
Wilkinson revealed in his autobiography, which is being serialised in The Times, that the match balls were a "joke" due to their inconsistent movement - something that could not be blamed on the weather as England played three of their pool games in the enclosed Otago Stadium.
The England fly-half described the different flight of the practice balls and the match balls and how the unpredictability derailed his game. "My feeling is that it's just horribly unprofessional and an extremely bitter pill to swallow that, at the biggest tournament in the sport, we're having to deal with this," Wilkinson said. "Again and again I'm hitting the same kick every time but it's non-match ball straight through the middle, match ball to the right.
"The problem is that when you feel like you're smashing it and the feedback is telling you that everything is great, yet the ball is swinging both ways and missing one way and then the other, you're left with a very difficult situation. From then on it's a joke.
"The organisers claim that all the balls are the same, but they're not. If they were they wouldn't be doing this."
Wilkinson had refused to comment on the ball-switch issue during the World Cup but now admits he was desperate to avoid using certain balls during the pool game against Romania.
"It's not exactly surprising that I wouldn't want a ball that flies miles from where it's supposed to," he added. "I'm sick to my stomach of thinking about how hard I've practised kicking over all those years and what little good it has done me at such an important time.
"It angers me."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game