Rugby World Cup: Jonny Wilkinson believes consistency is the key for England
Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson says England are building firm foundations ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 12/02/14 3:24pm
Wilkinson, who won the tournament in 2003 when his last-gasp drop-goal clinched the Webb Ellis trophy in Sydney, claims Stuart Lancaster is building a squad conducive to blooding emerging talent.
With the World Cup coming to English shores in 2015, Wilkinson believes players like Owen Farrell - who is the man in possession of his former No 10 jersey - will hold a pivotal role, but the present look of the squad excites the Toulon stand-off.
"I really enjoy the squad at the moment, I think the team looks in great shape and it looks as though it's going to be building nicely towards the World Cup," he told Sky Sports News.
"Ultimately, the key guys who will make an impact have always been the decision makers, the nines, 10s and captains.
"You look at the quality of guys like Billy Vunipola at No 8, who's making an impact in every game he's playing, but ultimately guys like Owen Farrell, these are the guys who are going to stand up and make the calls when the big moments come.
"With Manu Tuilagi coming back soon it must be a great time to come into a squad like that because it's a nice platform."
England have won one and lost one of their Six Nations matches so far and Wilkinson warns results are not everything, claiming the key for Lancaster is to discover a level of unerring consistency.
"The Six Nations is huge because it's what we've got right now, there are not many more opportunities to play before the World Cup," he added.
"You get two or three blocks per year of games to have a go at and this is the one right now, it's also high intensity with good challenges.
"The key is England's performance levels, results are sometimes out of control but the consistency in performance and in excellence is crucial.
"What Stuart Lancaster has done with that squad is create a foundation which is very solid, it's something now that you can rely and depend on."
Wilkinson is an ambassador for the 2015 World Cup and he believes the tournament's volunteer scheme - which follows in the footsteps of the London 2012 Gamesmakers initative - will offer a unique insight into the sport.
"The volunteers are going to make the World Cup, they will make it become what it is, make it as special as it is but also make it tick," he said.
"It wouldn't work without these guys who take on these roles to help everything - we're talking everything from checking accreditation when people come into the stadium, I've had them kicking balls back to me in training sessions at previous World Cups. They will be setting the dressing rooms up, welcoming teams when they arrive in the country, everything you can imagine.
"It gives a really nice emotional, up close and personal insight to what really happens, which for me, is actually the truth of rugby. It's not all about the 80 minutes on the field, a lot of it is about the rest of, the 99 per-cent you don't see, that's the key."
He added: "A lot of the volunteer scheme is about rewarding guys who take on those roles in their local clubs but there is also a huge push to try and drive it in areas where people don't know so much about the game, to help them grow and develop so they can see how good of a game it is.
"The World Cup is a real opportunity to see the game in its true light, the values, respect and passion of it; also, that real positivity about it."
Despite having a World Cup winner's medal in his locker, Wilkinson admits there is an element of jealousy, having never had the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in front of a home crowd.
"There is no doubt I am envious of the guys, but envious because I never had the chance in my career, not because I'm desperate to do it now," he admitted.
"My time has finished for that, I'm very well aware of that and in a way I'm excited for them to go and do it.
"It's disappointing not to be a part of it, but not because I have the desire still, I know my time has come and I'm really looking forward to seeing the guys attack it."
Wilkinson already boasts a healthy trophy cabinet but he still wants to win the Top 14 with Toulon, to add to their Heineken Cup triumph last year and the 34-year-old also hopes to remain in the game once his playing career comes to an end.
"I'm very much enjoying playing," he said. "Ideally, we're trying to win the Top 14 in France, we've been in two finals in recent years but both escaped.
"Thankfully, the Heineken Cup went our way but really, I'm just trying to get better. If I didn't feel that was a possibility then there would be no more rugby.
"After that, it's the big leap into the unknown like everybody makes, it will take time for me to get used to life without a game to prepare for but it's something I'll get used to I'm sure.
"Maybe, staying in the game and looking to help other people get to their best, through coaching and trying to help in that respect."