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Wilkinson demands Cup-Final mentality
27 September 2007 15:18pm
Fly-half superstar Jonny Wilkinson has called for "an enormously committed" England display in Friday night's World Cup eliminator against Tonga.
England have lost 25 Test matches since Martin Johnson held aloft the Webb Ellis Trophy in Sydney almost four years ago.
A 26th defeat from 44 games would officially make them the worst reigning world champions in rugby union history, given that every previous title holder at least made the quarter-finals.
The last-eight prize for England is an appointment with Australia in Marseille on Saturday week.
Tonga though, having pushed Pool A winners South Africa to the limit five days ago, are confident they will head south while England fly home.
Wilkinson said: "We've already seen huge performances from the likes of Tonga, who showed against South Africa you have to go out there with everything.
"You can't hold anything back against these guys.
"You need to go out there and be enormously committed to a cup-final mentality.
"Tonga are a hugely-organised side, as well as having that fantastic flair and physical ability that makes them enormously dangerous and threatening. There is a fantastic balance."
Wilkinson, who will become the highest scorer in World Cup history by overtaking Gavin Hastings if he amasses 22 points or more on Friday, has first-hand experience of Tongan brilliance.
Tonga centre Epi Taione now plies his trade with the Sanyo Wild Knights, but was once a team-mate of Wilkinson's at Newcastle.
He added: "Some of the best teams have an ability to intimidate the opposition with their physicality and their intensity.
"There are guys who can run strong and knock you over when they are running, at the same time as being able to step and run around you.
"That is the envy I have of these guys - the ability they have to physically take the ball forward at the same time as having that agility.
"Epi is a classic example. It was a joy to have him in the team at Newcastle.
"You just knew there was someone there, whether there was 79 minutes gone on the clock or not, who you always thought the next time he got the ball he was going to do something incredible with it."
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