Jonny Wilkinson says the current England team have the potential to become just as good as the class of 2003.
The World Cup winning fly-half worked with the England squad as a kicking coach in an informal capacity last month.
Speaking with former captain Martin Johnson at a Jonah Lomu Memorial Dinner, Wilkinson said he was impressed by the progress England have made since last year’s World Cup.
“There’s so much energy there, my role, if anything, I guess, is to just be there if they ever need me to try to help them, assist them in organising it in the most effective way,” said Wilkinson.
“It’s not to try to add anything. I don’t have anything to add to these guys, I promise you, I go there and watch. I’m in awe of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it but coming from 20 years of experience. However, that 20 years means nothing unless they tell me exactly what it means from them. I’m learning a lot about how they’re doing things and it really quite awe inspiring.”
According to Wilkinson, the current team has the same resilience and strength of character that charaterised the 2003 side under Clive Woordward.
“I think what we are seeing with the two sides I guess, if anything, is just feels like there’s an ability to control their own destiny a little bit,” said Wilkinson.
“By that, I mean whatever’s happening to them on the field, they’re starting to look like they’re just capable of understanding it and reforming it and remoulding it into something that works for them and then channelling all that power and passion through something else. Being spontaneous, flexible and then having a fabulous game plan with clinical execution and being able to say ‘right, hold on, we’ve lost a guy after five minutes, it’s not how we prepared.
“We’ve now lost all our back moves involving our blindside winger, we’ve now lost a winger out of the backfield in defence, we’ve now lost all of these different plays and defensively, attacking wise all of these things that come lineout, scrum moves and everything. Then, to be able to say, ‘right, we’re up against it and against a fabulous side. We’re OK, no worries, we’ll work it out’ and that’s the kind of the same image that’s coming to me through training to preparing for the next game.
“It’s just brilliant momentum where these guys are just picking up the ability to respond and choose the journey they want and they’re choosing at the moment to go out there and perform. We need to keep that going.”
Johnson, who captained England to the 2003 World Cup has also been impressed.
“They are winning games,” said Johnson. “I have watched them play from afar and they are winning their games. They have won them in different conditions – had a guy off against Argentina – and just continue to win games.
“A lot changes after a World Cup and quite quickly. Teams look very different but England have got mainly the same players and some young guys have come through, they have got the disappointment of last year in them but have got to keep on playing. We have got to continue to see the young guys come through and not just get a team that is finished. We need young players to keep coming on through in various positions because we have got a lot of guys who have been there for a while so we need the next guys also coming through as well.
“The biggest thing is winning games. Some days it looks great and everyone is excited and some days it doesn’t and you still win. That is what World Cups are about.”