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Mentor role reviving Wilkinson

Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:16
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It makes me feel fresh
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Jonny Wilkinson said Wednesday his unofficial role as a 'mentor' to some of Toulon's rising stars could help prolong his own playing career.

The 34-year-old England great's current contract with reigning European champions Toulon expires at the end of the season but he is expected to sign a new deal that will keep him with the French club.

And England's 2003 World Cup-winning flyhalf said working with the likes of Toulon and France centre Mathieu Bastareaud was helping reinvigorate his already successful career.

"I think that could help prolong things yes: I think as you get older maybe you just spend your time differently," Wilkinson said.

"When I was younger I was rugby 24/7 and I could live like that.

"Other interests come in as you get older and they help your rugby.

"For me I spend a lot of time working with other guys, seeing if I can help them, and it benefits me as well in the rugby sense," added Wilkinson, whose extra-time drop-goal saw England to World Cup glory with a 20-17 win over Australia in a tense Final in Sydney more than 10 years ago.

"It helps me think, helps me view things different, it revives me in the morning, it makes me feel fresh, and I can feel good about seeing other people do well.

"And that move to France, that's what it was all about, and to try to keep on getting better and better," said Wilkinson who joined a Toulon side, bankrolled by comic book millionaire Mourad Boudjellal in 2009 after 12 years with English Premiership side Newcastle.

Wilkinson, England's record points scorer with 1,179 in 91 Tests, retired from the Test arena after making his final international appearance in a 2011 World Cup quarterfinal defeat by France in Auckland where the Red Rose brigade were beaten 12-19.

However, the injury-plagued Wilkinson decided against calling time on his club career.

Already playing alongside Australia's Matt Giteau in a star-studded backline at Toulon, he can now look forward to having the likes of Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny and Wallaby exile James O'Connor as teammates in southern France next season.

Wilkinson was speaking Wednesday at Grasshoppers Rugby Club in west London where he was helping launch the volunteer programme for next year's Rugby World Cup in England.

Following the success of the 'Games Makers' at the 2012 London Olympics, England 2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans hopes to have 6,000 recruits for 'The Pack', as the volunteers at the World Cup will be known.

Wilkinson, recalling his own experience at the 2007 World Cup in France, where England beat the hosts in the semifinal before losing to South Africa 6-15 in the Final, praised the work of volunteers in rugby.

"In the World Cup in 2007, after the semifinal, there were a lot of volunteers right up close, helping out, but also gaining a great insight into the behind-the-scenes action," he said.

"This is a unique opportunity for people to be part of something extremely special, but also volunteers are the backbone of the game," Wilkinson added.

AFP

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