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May 22, 2009 a71 No. 270 a71 £1.70
The great full-back or scrum-half
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COHEN BACKS WILKO TO SHINE
by NEALE HARVEY
ONNY WILKINSON will take French rugby
by storm next season, according to former
England team-mate Ben Cohen (inset).
Wilkinson, 30, was amongst a host of signings
unveiled this week by Toulon, the ambitious Top
14 outfit who are looking to England’s 2003 World
Cup-winning hero for inspiration as they mount
an assault on the French championship.
And Cohen, who is returning to England this
summer after a two-year stint at Brive, is confident
his old England buddy will be up to the task.
“I think Jonny will be unbelievable in France
and he’ll fully embrace it,” Cohen told Rugby
“I think he might struggle at the beginning
while he gets used to everything. For the first six
months you’re playing everyone for the first time
and playing in the Top 14 is very different.
“But the thing about Jonny is he’s very
determined and very professional, so he’ll adapt
very quickly. He can speak fluent French anyway
and he’ll get on very well.”
"It had got to the point where I wasn't helping
Despite the horrendous catalogue of injuries
by being around the club any more and the
that have blighted Wilkinson’s career since he
association of me as an injured, non-playing
kicked England to World Cup glory in 2003, Cohen
person had set in and I hated that," Wilkinson said
has no worries over him handling the pressure on
in his column in The Times.
the French Riviera.
"A different club will help me to escape all
French fans are notoriously fickle when it
that negative energy."
comes to players who under-perform, but Cohen
Wilkinson has signed a two-year contract
added: “I can’t imagine there’s going to be greater
with the option to cancel after a year, but said he
pressure than Jonny puts on himself.
hoped to stay for longer.
“He’ll put himself under enormous pressure
"That was my decision because I want to stay
because that’s what he’s like and why he’s the sort
in control of my future, but I would hope and
of player he is. It’s a new start for him but he’ll
expect it to be a success and for me to re-sign for
handle it well.
longer," he added.
“Jonny might not have played for six months
"And I hope that this will be the springboard
but he can still turn up and be man-of-the-match –
to what I see as another five years in my career."
he proved that in an England jersey against
Scotland in 2007.
* The French threat - Pages 12-13
“He’s mentally tough, he’s brave and he’ll
ISSN 1478 4513
tackle anything. He’s very strong and committed
and he’s always had that vision of playing in
France. I think he’ll do very well down there.”
For Wilkinson, the big-money move to Brive
from Newcastle represents an exciting new chapter
in his career and hopefully a change of fortune. 9 7 7 1 4 7 8 4 5 1 0 1 4
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