Le Jonny Tells It Like It Is

... and the ball goes over the bar. That's how it works with this chap.

With any other kicker, you’d put it down to escaping blame; with le Jonny, the Mole accepts it as an absolute fact.

Wilkinson has immense stature in the game, but more pointedly is widely regarded as one of the most self-critical and honest players in rugby. This is a guy who has been to the top of the mountain, who has come through one of the worst runs of injury I’ve ever heard about in professional sports and has reinvented himself twice – from the wunderkind of English rugby in the early part of the last decade to the miracle-working Comeback Kid of 2007 to le Jonny, the emigré whom the fans of Toulon have embraced with open arms. He has done it all.

He’s no spoofer, and he’s extremely circumspect when it comes to speaking about his performances. Furthermore, few would argue that he is one of the greatest kickers in the history of rugby – and not just the pro era. So it’s revelatory to hear him speak out so strongly:

“Again and again I’m hitting the same kick every time but it’s non-match ball straight through the middle, match ball to the right.

“The problem is that when you feel like you’re smashing it and the feedback is telling you that everything is great, yet the ball is swinging both ways and missing one way and then the other, you’re left with a very difficult situation. From then on it’s a joke.

“The organisers claim that all the balls are the same, but they’re not. If they were they wouldn’t be doing this.”

Wilkinson is an expert. You could make an entirely believable claim that he’s the pre-eminent rugby-ball kicker in the world … when was the last time Dave Allred knocked one over the sticks in front of 70,000 people? When an acknowledged expert has a strong opinion on something, the people he’s criticizing would do well to clean out the old ear trumpets and listen up. In the Mole’s eyes, if Wilko says the ball is a dud, it’s a dud.

6 thoughts on “Le Jonny Tells It Like It Is

  1. Great post – brief but bang on. Anyone who dismisses Jonny as a whinger would need to look closer at his history and personality. The huge number of kickers who had issues with the ball would seem to bear it out, too.

  2. Bigging up the honesty angle without mentioning the ball switching is missing out something crucial. Rules is rules and Jonny broke them.

    Anyway, don’t disagree with the conclusion. There was very clearly something not right with the kicking in this RWC and the balls look like the problem.

    • Fair point, AR. I must say that apart from a stick to beat England with – and specifically Dave Allred, who seems like an fairly creepy and irritating management-guru-type-of-chump – I never really thought that the ball-swapping was a huge deal.

      Gilbert kept on saying that all their balls were exactly the same [and still maintain that claim], so was it really a big deal if they were swapped? Either the issue was in Wilkinson’s head – and I don’t really believe that was the decisive factor, although there’s probably an element of truth there as well – or some of the balls he had to kick with were substandard.

      Le Jonny is a personal favourite, so I’ll admit to readily taking his side in the argument. Were it ROG, or Dan Carter or Kurt Morath or Nicky Little, I don’t think I’d really have that much of a beef with kicking the conversion with a different ball anyway. They use different balls throughout the match, so I think it’s a bit of a redundant law. It’s not cricket, where the wear on the ball has a designed importance in the outcome.

  3. Few things here. My (completely uninformed) guesswork goes as such….the rfu are aiming to overhaul their coaching ticket (specifically those guilty of ball switching), whilst trying to keep Maggie Simpson’s nemesis in the head coaching position. MJ strikes me as a loyal sort of being who is probably saying if they go, I go. Consequently jean Wilkinson has put this forward to defend the ciaches who by switching balls were merely trying to help him

  4. ……hit post comment by accident there……………………..I do have sympathy for johnny and he is probably right-the balls were wobbly. I know they bring out those supposedly aero dynamic balls in soccer all the time at world cups that move all round the place. They think this helps to score more goals. Yeah, that might work in a lab testing free kicks, but in practice I’d say there are much less chances created….how do you get to shoot when its so hard to read and control a good long pass? Anyway I digress into soccer too much again.

    Fact is they were the same for everyone. If it meant bish bash bosh, then kick was harder to play then tough shit johnny, stop persisting with tough 50 yard kicks, start varying your game or it is time for Toby to get in there coach. Back to soccer. At the last world cup England talked a lot about the ball. I listened until seeing maradona boot it up and down and up and down and up and down with perfect control. It’s on the internet somewhere out there. I am not comparing johnny to any of those guys (although he would remind you of Michael Owen) , but things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. Is that some johnny inspired Zen?

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