x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Low-key role may help Wilkinson’s transition

If the accepted wisdom that great players seldom make good coaches is true, Toulon might want to think twice about handing Jonny Wilkinson the overcoat and laptop for next season.

Jonny Wilkinson may have more to ponder when he moves from the playing field to Toulon's touchline as a coach. Adrian Dennis / AFP
Jonny Wilkinson may have more to ponder when he moves from the playing field to Toulon's touchline as a coach. Adrian Dennis / AFP

If the accepted wisdom that great players seldom make good coaches is true, Toulon might want to think twice about handing Jonny Wilkinson the overcoat and laptop for next season.

It has been reported the former England fly-half will retire from playing this summer, yet will stay on at his French club to act as a kicking coach and club ambassador. The first part of that brief will see him try to improve the kicking stats of Leigh Halfpenny, the Welsh recruit whom he is said to be staying on to mentor.

Coaching has never seemed like an obvious career progression for Wilkinson. He has appeared to be almost a tortured soul for much of his playing days, vainly pursuing perfection – although getting close. At least as a player he has been answerable to himself. Professional neuroses, of which he has apparently had many during his glorious career, must be even more difficult to handle if you are unable to affect the outcome of your labour yourself – and that is the lot of a coach.

Martin Johnson, another celebrated member of the same World Cup winning side as Wilkinson in 2003, clearly struggled with it when he became the England manager.

Stuart Lancaster, a man with barely any playing career of note to speak of, has made a better fist of the same job so far than his gilded predecessor Johnson.

Wilkinson may revel in the fact his coaching role will be relatively low-key. But his charges will know they have high standards to ­attain.

pradley@thenational.ae

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