Australia told to fear Wilko
November 4, 2009
England are tipping Jonny Wilkinson to break Australia's hearts like he did in 2003 © Getty Images
Australia have been warned they are right to fear the return of Jonny Wilkinson ahead of Saturday's showdown with England at Twickenham.
Wilkinson, 30, is back in prime form following a revitalising summer move to Toulon and will be named in an England team for the first time in 18 months on Wednesday.
Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans has admitted he is concerned about the impact Wilkinson's presence will have on an otherwise depleted England side.
The red rose management, so often nervous about making any kind of bold proclamations pre-match, decided to spell it out for the Wallabies.
Attack coach Brian smith said: "Wilko is lethal as a points-scorer and he is a really good general," said Smith. "He is a real factor. Wilko is a very well-rounded player and Robbie Deans is already talking about him, which is a good thing.
"Jonny's skills are outstanding. He is a great distributor and if the opportunity presents to put width on the ball there are very few guys with his skills in that area."
Smith revealed England's gameplan has been tailor-made to suit Wilkinson, who averages nearly 14 points a game, while in defence he remains as ferocious as ever. England have won 78% of their matches with Wilkinson since his debut in 1999 but only 47% of Tests when he has been absent.
"We went around to our key players and got their input and we have pretty much put together a way of playing that will try to highlight the strengths of the players we have got.," Smith said.
England manager Martin Johnson names his side to face the Wallabies on Wednesday and he is set to unleash a team packed with brute force but short on grace and almost bereft of experience.
Johnson has lost 11 of his initial 32-man squad to injury, including seven guaranteed starters and six members of the Lions squad this summer.
As a result, 11 of England's likely starting side have under 13 caps to their name. Six of those players able to count their international experience in single figures. The natural attacking threats of Ben Foden and Mathew Tait were sent home on Tuesday, confirming Ugo Monye, towering Matt Banahan and Mark Cueto will start in the back three.
Shane Geraghty will provide England with a second ball-player at inside centre alongside the squat and powerful Dan Hipkiss. In the pack, Johnson appears to have settled on an all-Leicester back row while Louis Deacon is set to continue alongside Steve Borthwick in the second row. The direct, hard-running Biarritz centre Ayoola Erinle and dynamic Northampton lock Courtenay Lawes are both set to win debut caps off the bench.
Erinle was only called into the squad as injury cover last weekend but his selection ahead of Tait or Foden could speak volumes about England's planned approach.
Stay tuned to Scrum.com for the England squad announcement at 12pm GMT