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Premiership Rugby

Jonny Wilkinson – England’s key man

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Making his England debut as a replacement back in 1998 in England's Triple Crown sealing win over Ireland at Twickenham, Wilkinson was described in the UK's national press as "an 18-year-old who has hardly played senior rugby".

And it was true – having just signed for soon-to-be English Premiership champions Newcastle Falcons, Wilkinson was very much in the shadow of the man who's England points record he would so convincingly demolish, his Director of Rugby Rob Andrew.

Such was the hype surrounding Wilkinson – a former pupil at Newcastle coach Steve Bates' school – that Andrew moved aside in the backs division to centre, in an attempt to accommodate his talents at No.10, and the heavy responsibility of kicking duties as well.

And yet Wilkinson's first start in an England shirt hardly had the makings of a promising Test career when he was chosen for the first time at fly-half in England's 76-0 humiliation by Australia in what came to be known as the 'Tour of Hell' in June 1998.

He appeared in the first half of England's 84-6 win over Georgia, with coach Clive Woodward pulling him off shortly after half-time once he had contributed a 'mere' 16 points with his deadly left boot.

'Wilko' has no equal in England when it comes to fly-half play – in fact, many would suggest he has no equal in the world – and if England are to progress to this year's Final we may just see less and less of the Newcastle star once this weekend's first hurdle – South Africa – is cleared.

Position: Fly-halfAge: 24Date of Birth: 25 May 1979Place of Birth: FrimleyInternational debut: 04 April 1998 against IrelandLast Test: 06 September 2003 against FranceHeight: 1.77 metresWeight: 84.36 kilogramsTest caps: 47Test points: 720Test tries: 5Penalties: 140Conversions: 118Drop-goals: 13

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