x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Ten years on and Jonny Wilkinson still the talk of town

When Jonny Wilkinson was at his peak one commentator said people will still be talking about the England fly-half in 100 years time. A mere 10th of the way toward the prophecy and, Wilkinson is still a conversation-starter, comments Paul Radley.

Jonny Wilkinson, centre, and his storied career has set the bar for the British & Lions for many years to come. Franck Pennant / AFP
Jonny Wilkinson, centre, and his storied career has set the bar for the British & Lions for many years to come. Franck Pennant / AFP

When Jonny Wilkinson was at the peak of both his game and his celebrity, one commentator admittedly prone to hyperbole said people will still be talking about the England fly-half in 100 years time.

That was around 10 years ago. A mere 10th of the way toward the prophecy and, yes, Wilkinson is still a conversation-starter.

For much of the decade since, most talk related to him has centred on his gifts to medical science. Given all the injuries, it is a wonder Wilkinson still remains relevant. More than relevant, vital.

This week, Warren Gatland, the British & Irish Lions coach, felt compelled to defend one of the players he has selected at fly-half for duty this summer in Australia.

The intimation was that Owen Farrell had underperformed in two major matches for his club side. Really, you got the sense his major failing was that he isn't Jonny Wilkinson.

And Jonny Sexton, the Irish fly-half, who is presumably the Lions' No 10 elect, said he wished Wilkinson had been selected for the tour party. He wanted to learn from the Englishman, on account of the fact "he is a bit of a legend".

Wilkinson has the chance to shave the "bit of" from the description in the coming weeks.

His kicking duel with Morgan Parra, the Clermont Auvergne half back, will go a long way to settling the Heineken Cup tomorrow.

Success for Toulon could come as part of a domestic and European double. And then for Wilkinson a late call for Lions duty? That's the way legends roll.

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