Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"Jonny" Wilkinson retires . Praise from a Welshman.

I think only David Duckham  the Is the only English Player who was capped 36 times 1969 to 1976  has ene endeared himself to Welsh Rugby fans and this was partly due to the fact that it was with the Lions under Carwyn James he was part of the successful British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and  encouraged by that  coach s, he found an attacking freedom that was lacking in the English game. He scored 11 tries in his 16 games on tour.

He was the only English back in the 1973 Barbarians side that beat the All Blacks 23-11 at Cardiff Arms Park. In the first half he made a run that has become part of rugby lore, that brought gasps and cheers from a Welsh crowd more accustomed to regarding him with hostility

This led to a memory of him playing in a charity match iat Penygraig where on soring a Try there was a beam of a smile when the announcer said "that try was scored by Dukham".

Johnny Wilkinson never enters Welsh hearts but I also feel on the announcement of his International reritement he should receive the praise he deeserves from this side of the border.

My attitude to Wilkinson changed when I realised in a match at Twikenham against South Africa he was clearly targeted by a South African player in order to take him out of the game and I found myself for the first and only time shouting for England.

Although his goal kicking was what he was most famous for and this the comparison to Neil Jenkins may have clouded many Welsh fans judgment .it was total commitment in defence that I feel showed himself at his best.

Indeed perhaps he was often too committed and his carer was blighted by injury he would probably surpassed Neil Jenkins record of International points in 2005a few years earlier.Though Jenkins should have been capped more by Wales in his career.

It has been suggested inat his old club Newcastle Falcons he was relied on so much he was left vulnerable to tackles by opposing players and was forced to take a greater role in defence that a fly half really should.

At this years World Cup he had failed to shine and like a number of veteran goal kickers seemed to have a particularly  hard time coping with the match ball.

So I hope the rest of Welsh Rugby fans will join me in raising a glass to an old foe on his retirement. Like Shane Williams he his a Rugby legend and we should acknowledge him as such.

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