When we think of Jonny Wilkinson, the famous drop kick comes to mind. We also tend to think about his insanely hard work rate and his unmatched game control. What we always seem to forget however was his absolute unit of a shoulder.
Whilst true that without the big hits Wilkinson used to put in, he could very well have had a much longer career, not littered with injuries. It was these big hits that made him one of the most feared defenders in world rugby, however.
Fly-halves are commonly known to be one of the smaller, less physically aggressive players. With smooth playmaking abilities, the ability to control a game, and an unflinching nerve from the kicking tee, these are the attributes demanded from any top-level fly-half.
Wilkinson had these traits in abundance, but as you’ll be able to see from the below video, he was taking on, and returning with interest, any player of any size that decided to run down his channel:
Jonny Wilkinson defensive appreciation tweet. pic.twitter.com/hVzRdLZtRa
— Andrew Forde (@andrewfrugby) August 2, 2022
Speaking in his prime, back in 2003 Wilkinson discussed his aggressive playing style with the BBC:
“It has been suggested I need to reign in my approach on the field to try to steer clear of injury but it is a very personal thing for me.
“I have to play the game that way, and I think I would get injured more if I was thinking about avoiding certain situations.
“Sometimes I watch games on video and look at certain situations and think, ‘What have I got myself in there for?’
“But at the time that is my natural instinct and that is what makes me as a player. That is just the edge I am trying to put on my own game and on my team.
“I am learning all the time on how to avoid situations like that, even though it is a part of the game I find very enjoyable. I love to be thoroughly involved.”
As the years went on, Wilkinson found his body more and more susceptible to injuries. This caused months at a time to be sat on the sidelines unable to perform for club and country. Despite this, Wilkinson went on to become the world’s top international points scorer at one stage, and remains to this day England’s greatest ever fly-half.
It was during the latter stages of his career that Wilkinson made his travels over to French superstar outfit Toulon, where he won two Heineken Cup’s before finally retiring in 2014.