So Johnny Wilkinson is dropped for only the second time in his career. This after being substituted during Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield. Four years ago, Wilkinson carried the England team to World Cup glory. He was at the top of his game. The world’s best. But there was a price to pay for his herculean efforts. Injury followed injury. As if carrying the weight of England on his shoulders, was more than his body could tolerate.
The same happened to Andrew Flintoff. When England broke a stop situation and reclaimed The Ashes in 2005, Flintoff was the spiritual leader. Where he went, the rest followed. By his will the Ashes were wrestled out of the Australians grasp. But, like Johnny Wilkinson, it came at a price to the Lancastrian. He simply has not been the same player since that extraordinary series.
There is no pleasure to be had in seeing Johnny Wilkinson substituted or dropped. Better for him, right now, to take a break from the international game. Enjoy rugby at club level. It may be, that he will never be able to reclaim the form, the fitness, the desire that made him the world’s best. Maybe his work is done.
Better in that case, to find another outlet for his undoubted acumen. Greats should be remembered for their greatness. Not for their fall from grace. The wise ones know the moment to leave the great stage.