Andy Robinson fears for Wilkinson

Former England head coach Andy Robinson would not have risked Jonny Wilkinson in Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Robinson was sacked in November after a disastrous spell in charge which saw the world champions lose 13 of his 22 games at the helm, but was never able to play Wilkinson, who Robinson had initially made captain at the start of his tenure.

But Robinson’s replacement, Brian Ashton, has recalled the fit-again Newcastle back for his first appearance since the World Cup final in 2003 and he is set to take the field at Twickenham on Saturday.

In his column for The Independent, Robinson said: “He’s still the biggest box-office draw in the European game. (But) Would I have played him this weekend? Probably not, if I’m honest.

“I totally understand his selection, because he’s a phenomenal professional; when you work with him in training, you quickly realise that in terms of personal preparation he is in a different class.

“He knows his body and he knows his mind and, believe me, he wouldn’t have put himself forward for this match with Scotland if he didn’t think he was up to it.

“But I see the Six Nations as a series of games and my concern has less to do with this fixture than with the Italy and Ireland matches on the horizon.

“Jonny will get himself up for this one – the adrenalin will be flooding through him. But can a player with so little competitive rugby in the bank get up a second and a third time, just like that? I wonder.

“To my mind, we need Jonny firing fully for the trip to Dublin later this month. That is why I would have gone for the step-by-step approach and picked him for last night’s A international, not the full international this afternoon.”

However, Robinson admits he has been excited by Ashton’s team selection for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup game and claims it is a team in his own image.

He added: “My initial reaction when I saw the England selection for today’s match was ‘wow, it’s my kind of team’.

“Two things excited me about it. Firstly, the back division set the pulse racing – when you see attacking runners like Jason Robinson and Josh Lewsey lining up outside Jonny Wilkinson and Andy Farrell, two players armed with immense creative ability, you automatically start thinking that anything is possible.

“Secondly, I was struck by the warrior spirit running through the line-up. Wilkinson, Farrell, Mike Tindall, Phil Vickery, Danny Grewcock, Martin Corry – these people are fighters, players who bring some real heart and soul to the mix.

“When I see those names on a team-sheet, I’m happy.”

365 Digital

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