Wilkinson eager for Flutey link-up

Jonny Wilkinson believes he can strike up an immediate relationship with Riki Flutey and inspire England’s back division against Italy on Sunday.

Wilkinson has always played at his best for England with a general on his shoulder, barking orders and helping to guide the team around the field.

When England dominated world rugby, Wilkinson took the plaudits but he always deflected the praise towards Will Greenwood or Mike Catt. He still does.

Wilkinson is desperate to bring England’s strike runners Mathew Tait, Ugo Monye, Mark Cueto and Delon Armitage into play after they were starved of possession in last weekend’s 30-17 victory over Wales.

And he feels that Flutey’s return to the England side after recovering from a dead leg will be key to that.

“I enjoyed watching Flutey with the Lions and with England last year. Having watched him in training, he is incredibly energetic and he’s buzzing all the time,” said Wilkinson.

“He is very, very vocal and he cares about every tiny detail. He likes to get loose and play as well.

“I can see a bit of Catty in him, in terms of his vision of the game, which is very clear. I see Riki as an out-and-out threat playing at 12 and he talks well too.

“When you are a bit wider in the 12 position you have a bit more time away from where the scrum-half is passing the ball to scan the field and see what is going on.

“As the fly-half it’s a massive thing to have all those calls coming in so you know about your options and your decisions are better informed.

“The biggest goal this weekend for us is to play with the ball. It is a balance but seeing guys get the ball in the right areas is a key for me.”

Flutey is singing from the same hymn sheet. He spent the autumn recovering from shoulder surgery and watching England’s sterile performances in frustration.

Now Flutey wants to make the same kind of impact he did last season, when he finished as the joint-leading try-scorer in the 2009 Six Nations and produced a match-winning third Test performance for the Lions in South Africa.

“If I can take a little bit of pressure off Jonny then that means there are less things for him to worry about and he can focus on his own opportunities. I will be his other pair of eyes,” said Flutey.

“Mathew Tait has all the skills in the world and lots of pace and I am looking forward to getting out there alongside him in Rome.

“Hopefully, we can create chances to let his talents shine – that would be great.

“We have a fantastic squad and I am looking forward to getting out there with the boys and as long as the guys inside and outside me understand their roles, then we can create something.”

Martin Johnson will confirm the make-up of his bench later today, having delayed the announcement due to concerns over injury and illness.

Captain Steve Borthwick has not trained all week after contracting a bug and Simon Shaw was laid low on Wednesday, while there is also an injury cloud over Lewis Moody.

Johnson insisted all three will be fit to play and he is confident prop David Wilson will have shaken off a neck problem to also be involved.

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