Robinson praise for resurgent Wilkinson
February 4, 2007
Jason Robinson believes there are ``signs of something special'' after England's World Cup heroes reunited to launch the Brian Ashton era in trophy-winning fashion at Twickenham.
Success-starved England supporters had cried out for what unfolded in the 124th playing of international rugby's oldest fixture - Robinson scoring tries and Jonny Wilkinson breaking records.
There were flashbacks to November 22, 2003 when England conquered planetrugby, as Wilkinson dropped a goal and Robinson slithered his way over to score in the left-hand corner.
But far more significantly, it was the start of head coach Ashton's brave new world, a time when players will be encouraged to perform without fear, rather than don strait-jackets.
England, it should not be forgotten, began the 2006 RBS 6 Nations Championship with an emphatic home victory by smashing Wales 47-13, then spectacularly lost their way through a depressing combination of poor selection, dreadful tactics and individual blunders.
Such incompetence resulted in Ashton's predecessor Andy Robinson and the Rugby Football Union inevitably parting company.
That painful break-up happened less than 10 weeks ago, yet Ashton has already enthused a radically reshaped team. To see an England side place the emphasis on adventure and heads-up rugby offers hope, where previously there had only been despair.
England's second win in the last 10 Tests was inspired by fly-half superstar Wilkinson, who mocked those who dared to doubt him.
His 27-point haul, comprising a try, drop-goal, two conversions and five penalties, created a new individual Calcutta Cup record. Not even Wilkinson's rugby mentor - and previous record holder - Rob Andrew could have predicted such a spectacular comeback.
More than three years after Wilkinson last appeared in an England shirt, his mental strength and unshakeable self-belief meant he hit heights only a select band of sportsmen can attain.
Wilkinson had missed England's last 30 Test matches through a demoralising combination of injuries and illness, but he found his feet again with ease after just 45 minutes' rugby in 12 weeks as his team made a flying start to World Cup year.
``Jonny was outstanding,'' said Robinson.
``He has hardly had any game time in the last three years, but to come in and perform under so much pressure was superb. He has got all the skills, and he loves the big stage. He can handle the pressure.
``When you are around Jonny and you see the attention he gives to detail and the time he spends perfecting what he does, it is no surprise, It is not a fluke, it is achieved by a lot of hard work and dedication.
``He has been frustrated for quite some time, and I am just pleased he is back, injury-free.''
England and a battle-scarred Wilkinson - he displayed a bloodied lip for most of the game after an accidental collision with Scotland flanker Simon Taylor - did not have things all their own way,
Taylor's 25th-minute try, gifted to him by poor England lineout work, left the home side trailing 10-6 and caused much shuffling among a Twickenham record Six Nations crowd of 82,000.
Two Wilkinson penalties and Robinson's opening try - his first Test touchdown since ``retiring'' from the international game midway through 2005 - edged England ahead before they blitzed Scotland with 20 unanswered points between the 48th and 59th minutes.
Robinson added: ``I thought the team showed a lot. The forwards really took charge of the game, and it was great to have Jonny out there controlling the game.
``There were a lot of signs of something special, but we have got a lot of work to do. We want to turn things around and get back to winning ways.
``It wasn't about me or Jonny, it was about everyone working hard for the cause. We knew the more we put in as a team, the more we would get out of it.
``Life is a lot better in rugby when you are winning. It was a good start for us, but hopefully the more games we have together, the better we will get.''
Robinson's Sale Sharks colleague Magnus Lund added a late try to confirm England's margin of superiority, and although former Great Britain rugby league skipper Andy Farrell also had his moments on debut, it was a day when Wilkinson, Robinson and the accomplished Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis put England back on track.
Ellis had easily his best game for England, exploiting the space afforded him by a cumbersome Scottish back-row, while Bath lock Danny Grewcock dominated a determined red rose forward effort, expertly assisted through the work of captains past and present, Martin Corry and Phil Vickery.
Scotland claimed tries from Taylor and substitute Rob Dewey, with skipper Chris Paterson kicking the remainder of their points, but it was Vickery who held aloft the Calcutta Cup, suggesting England, at last, mean business.
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