So the mere prospect of Wilkinson checking in at England's Versailles training base will raise spirits among supporters desperate for the world champions to mount a meaningful title defence.
The Newcastle fly-half's Test average of more than 15 points a game should at least help England fill their anticipated quarter-final slot.
And, whisper it quietly, but those fans could even see a more relaxed Wilkinson strutting his stuff during what England hope will be a seven-week tour of duty.
The long road back to fitness from repeated injury setbacks has been well chronicled and Wilkinson heads to France as still arguably England's most valuable player.
Of the 33 Tests he has missed since November 2003, England can reflect on just 13 wins - further proof that when it comes to the big occasion, they struggle to cope without him.
Assessing the prospect of his third World Cup campaign, Wilkinson said: "I still need to do the preparation, I can't bear the idea of missing a kick and not doing my best.
"But instead of getting angry on the training field, like I used to spend a lot of time doing and thinking something was working against me, I now see those misses as a very quick opportunity to learn a lesson and move forward.
"It doesn't mean I stop being so intense and ambitious about each game, but it is not a case of saying 'I have to go through pain to win this game or come out on top.'
"It is hard work, but it isn't pain, it is good fun. The games are good fun. I have learned the two can go together."