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Wilkinson: It’s about the team

Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:25
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The decision to carry on would have been totally selfish
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Jonny Wilkinson admitted he gave up the kicking duties in Toulon's European Cup win over Exeter Chiefs on Saturday to avoid being selfish.

The England international was below-par with the boot, kicking just one of five attempts between the posts, before handing over the tee to Australia's Matt Giteau with his side trailing 8-9 at Sandy Park.

Giteau then fired the defending champions ahead with a 66th minute penalty, prompting the Exeter fans to chant, 'We want Jonny!'

Wilkinson regained his composure to seal the Pool Two victory with a trademark drop-goal with six minutes left to put Toulon top of the group, one point above Cardiff Blues.

"I thought it was a good decision [to hand over the kicking duties]. I prepared well last week and I felt fabulous coming into the game. But I just didn't have it," admitted Wilkinson.

"The decision to carry on would have been totally selfish and if I had done it would have been just for me to get or recoup something out of it for myself. There's no point.

"I'm playing in a team alongside guys like Matt Giteau so you think, 'These guys are itching to get involved.' It's not my place to do that anymore. It's not about me, it's about the team and Matt did a great job for us - I felt better with him there than me."

After seeing his usually ultra-reliable goal kicker miss with four attempts, Toulon coach Bernard Laporte was comfortable with the decision to switch to Giteau.

"It was Jonny's decision. He is not a robot, he is a man like you and me. He missed a few kicks from far out, but there was only one from close range," said Laporte.

Wilkinson knows that the home comforts provided by Stade Felix Mayol for the return leg this weekend should make life easier for both his goal-kicking and his side, but the England veteran confessed to being mightily impressed by the Chiefs.

"We know we have to prepare damn well to play against them. We've seen first-hand what they are capable of and if the rub of the green had been slightly different, we know we would have been in a very different situation right now.

"Right now we'll take each game as it comes, but these guys will be incredibly tough next week. Then whoever they face after that, it's impossible to say who is going to qualify from this group.

"It's do or die every game, and it reminds me somewhat of the Rugby World Cup in 2007 when we came off the loss to South Africa and suddenly you find yourselves backs to the wall in every game. It doesn't matter how well you get out of that next one, you are still in the same position, and it's a stressful place to be.

"Obviously we lost to Cardiff last time and that put us in that position, but at the same time it does something for you and if you are able to use that pressure; turn it into positive motivation and work together, then you grow as a team."

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