Jonny Wilkinson admits Rugby World Cup win was ‘difficult’ and ‘unfulfilling’

Jonny Wilkinson on Ireland’s chances of winning Six Nations

Jonny Wilkinson has admitted that his 2003 Rugby World Cup victory against Australia might have seemed like a moment of elation, but that there was “real angst” behind the scenes.

Talking in a new interview with this week’s Radio Times, the sporting champ explained: “When I was jumping around at the final whistle it was immensely fulfilling on the surface; but at a deeper level, it wasn’t.

“Reaching the destination didn’t sate my passion and purpose in any way. Showing the trophy at my club, Newcastle, a week later, I thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here.'”

He referenced his age at the time – just 24 – and explained that the win took place in a “period of real angst”.

“I’ve built myself on an archetype of trying to be the martyr, the saviour and the warrior, and now I’m being applauded and I can’t handle it,” he continued.

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Jonny credits “years of practise” for the winning goal that led England to a World Cup win, suggesting that everything simply fell into place on the day.

No attempt has been quite so successful ever since, with England reaching the final just twice since his 2003 win.

On the first occasion, South Africa beat the British team to the title in 2007, while in 2019 exactly the same happened again in Tokyo.

However, although Jonny is still receiving praise to this day for leading the country to success, he disassociates from the experience these days.

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“It feels like it was yesterday, but it also feels like it wasn’t me,” he reflected.

“I tell a story about that person, not as that person. I feel little need to go back over it, although when I talk about it now, I remember it vividly.”

He also admitted that he frequently needed to find a way to “relax” due to the challenging intensity of the spotlight.

Yet he admits he also “loves” hearing about those who experienced elation at seeing the winning goal.

The Premiership rugby star played for the Newcastle Falcons for 12 seasons, with his much praised drop goal being the undisputed highlight of his career.

However, in 2009, the national hero switched allegiances and moved to Toulon, where he netted two Heineken Cups and one top 14 Championship in just five seasons.

In 2016, just two years after retiring from the game, he was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, honouring his remarkable contributions – and he now remains in the spotlight as a pundit for ITV Sport.

The full interview with Jonny, his former team-mate Lawrence Dallaglio and their head coach Clive Woodward, reminiscing on the World Cup win, can be found in this week’s Radio Times magazine.

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