Two years to RWC 2019: Jonny Wilkinson’s view
As the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan continues, the record points scorer in the competition’s history looks ahead to the big tournament
With two years to go until Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off in Tokyo, the tournament will be creeping into the thoughts of those players likely to light up the biggest stage, according to Jonny Wilkinson, whether they like it or not.
In theory, each player should be keeping in mind the old adage of ‘taking each game as it comes’. “Rugby World Cup is too far away to be concerning yourself with,” says the rugby legend – a winner in 2003 and runner-up in 2007 - although he can’t help adding, “but it is such a big thing.”
And it is getting bigger. But, says Jonny, “players must not lose sight of the need to concentrate on where they are right now, which is the next training session, which is leading up to the next game. The answers are always around you now; they are not in some imaginary future.”
Although he adds, using RWC2019 as a goal can help, “The idea of something two years away, which could be the biggest moment of your sporting life, does sit nicely in the background if you can use it properly.”
The fact Rugby World Cup is being hosted outside of the traditional rugby playing nations for the first time adds to the excitement, says Jonny,
“It’s a huge opportunity for the game to showcase itself. The Asian support base has been absolutely phenomenal, but there is capacity to really take things forward over there.”
Japan’s “amazing” win over South Africa in the last World Cup could be a sign of what is to come, he adds, “There could be many more moments like that with the support of a home nation behind them. Japan need to look at what they have that no one else does, which is an incredible mental incisiveness, attention to detail, and a real pace and precision about the tempo of their game.”
Beyond Japan, the tournament looks intriguing. A lot can change in two years, but Jonny believes it could be wide open.
Having played in four Rugby World Cups (and two finals), Jonny enjoyed Rugby World Cup 2015 from the other side, as an ambassador for Societe Generale, Worldwide Partner of the event, as it will be in Japan. The experience was eye-opening, says Jonny, “Sometimes you get carried away with events on the field and lose sight of what makes it happen. I got an insight into the massive amount of work behind the scenes, the projects and programmes to ensure people are there for these life changing moments.”
“This is what makes the tournament,” he says, “The fact people like Societe Generale are involved is why people talk about Rugby World Cup and find themselves inspired by it.”