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World Cup winner Wilkinson helps Farrell with last-minute drop-goal prep

Eddie Jones’ side had an interesting visitor to training in Tokyo.

2003 WORLD CUP winner Jonny Wilkinson visited England training on the eve of their 2019 World Cup final against South Africa to help captain Owen Farrell with some last-minute drop-goal and place-kicking training.

england-training-fuchu-asahi-football-park Farrell and Wilkinson at England training in Tokyo today. Source: Adam Davy

England boss Eddie Jones has left no stone unturned in his team’s preparation for this World Cup decider, apparently going as far as to have a local Japanese player who has joined their training sessions don a blond wig in order to imitate South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk.

Jones today called in Wilkinson, who secured the 2003 trophy for England with an iconic drop goal, for his squad’s final training session of the week in Tokyo.

Wilkinson has previously worked with England on a consultancy basis during Jones’ tenure, offering his vast knowledge and technical expertise in kicking to the squad’s place-kickers and kickers from hand.

Wilkinson was photographed coaching Farrell – who had strapping over the dead leg he suffered against New Zealand – on his drop-goal and place-kicking technique ahead of what could be a tight encounter with the Springboks at International Stadium Yokohama tomorrow. 

40-year-old Wilkinson had not been seen at England training in Japan up until this point but it is likely that goal-kicking and perhaps drop-goals could play a crucial role in tomorrow’s final.

england-training-fuchu-asahi-football-park Wilkinson watches on as Farrell place-kicks. Source: Adam Davy

England captain Farrell has been kicking at 79% so far in this World Cup, with Springboks out-half Handré Pollard currently on 71%. 

Farrell will be a key man for England for more reasons than his kicking ability, of course, with his leadership having stood out in this World Cup so far.

“He’s a good one,” said England lock George Kruis, a Saracens team-mate of Farrell’s. “I’ve known him for a long time now and played together at club level and here.

“He’s the ultimate professional, he’s very rounded, he’s worked incredibly hard on improving himself as well.

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“You look to five, six, seven years ago, he’s improved himself as a character, he’s a lot more rounded and he can deal with a lot. I’ve got nothing but credit for him, and he’s a great captain.”

England will draw confidence from their captain’s guidance, but also from the prep that head coach Jones has delivered.

england-training-fuchu-asahi-football-park Eddie Jones coaching some local kids in Tokyo today. Source: Adam Davy

“Eddie has been brilliant so far,” said flanker Sam Underhill. “He’s a coach who makes life as simple and as easy as it can be for a player. He doesn’t over-complicate things, which, as a player, is all you can really ask for.

“You get to this stage, in knockout games, with more nerves, excitement, and anticipation – there’s a lot of emotion going on and all you want to do is find something to focus on; your processes.

“We’ve done that well so far. Eddie has been brilliant in that respect. He doesn’t give us too much to think about, so we can go out and focus on the small things, to make sure we get them right. That’s all part of the bigger picture.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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