Points machine Chris Paterson today broke off preparing for Edinburgh’s vital Heineken European Cup clash with Cardiff tomorrow to pay tribute to fellow goal-kicker Jonny Wilkinson of England, who this week retired from international rugby.
And Paterson’s praise was echoed by another experienced Edinburgh internationalist as Phil Godman recalled starting out at pro level with Newcastle Falcons under the wing of a fellow stand-off – three years older – who will continue turning out for Toulon.
Hailing “Wilko” as the man who set the standards, Paterson said: “He laid the foundation for rugby to go ahead with his accuracy. At that time there was probably no-one as accurate as him. It set a level for everyone; people expected it.
“Rugby supporters watching Jonny Wilkinson wondered why the guy who played for Scotland, Wales, Australia or whoever couldn’t get to that same level. It put pressure on everyone else.
“He was a brilliant [international] player, so accurate kicking from hand but so good at decision making. When it was him and Matt Catt against you, with one right-footed and the other using their left foot, it was pretty tough.
“He was a good runner, too, which is often overlooked.”
According to Godman, another aspect of Wilkinson’s game was his bone-crunching tackling – as he knew from experience when Edinburgh faced Newcastle in Europe.
“Jonny was the best defensive No. 10 (stand-off) there has ever been so far as I’m concerned,” said Godman, adding “before he had shoulder injury issues, he regularly knocked over guys so much bigger. He once hit me so hard I was groggy afterwards.
“As a young player I could have had no better role model. Even though already established with England, Jonny was happy to stay back and help me as a teenager which I’m sure got me to top level with Scotland.”