Wilkinson defends under-fire colleagues

Jonny Wilkinson has defended his England team-mates after an inability to convert their goal-kicking chances was instrumental in the Six Nations defeat at home to France. [more]

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Jonny Wilkinson has defended his England team-mates after an inability to convert their goal-kicking chances was instrumental in the Six Nations defeat at home to France.

Goalkickers Charlie Hodgson and Olly Barkley missed six penalties between them in contrast to the accuracy of Dimitri Yachvili, who kicked six penalties from seven attempts as Les Bleus wiped out a 17-6 interval deficit and recorded their first victory at Twickenham since 1997.

Wilkinson’s absence became more apparent when Hodgson sent a late drop-goal attempt wide.

However, the British & Irish Lions fly-half has stepped forward to defend the pair after they became the subject of much criticism, insisting the extent of the opprobrium was unwarranted.

Wilkinson told The Times: "Sitting where I was, Charlie Hodgson had six place-kicks at goal and hit five of them perfectly, so the reaction he has had to face, while predictable, has been blown out of all proportion.

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"It’s easy enough to say France kicked six goals while England missed six, but it’s far more than just goal-kicking that wins or loses games.

"Three of his six goalkicks went over, three did not, on a blustery day that affected the flight of the ball.

"What is true for Charlie is true for Olly Barkley, too.

"He felt that the longer kicks he attempted in the second half were within his range and Jason Robinson, as captain, felt quite rightly that it was important to try to secure another three points to consolidate the lead and increase the number of scores required by France."

Further support for the pair has been provided by England kicking coach Dave Alred.

He told the Daily Express: "As far as I am concerned, Charlie is absolutely the man still to do the goalkicking for England. No doubt about it.

"Charlie is tough enough to overcome this.

"Most goalkickers have had at some time in their life what you and I would describe as absolute nightmares and they have to come through it.

"I don’t expect any different from Charlie and Olly."

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