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'Get over' Jonny, Aussies are told.

ENGLAND'S Martin Johnson has confronted Australia's obsession with their archnemesis Jonny Wilkinson and told them: "Get over it".

The Wallabies still fear the man who wrecked their World Cup dreams at successive tournaments - on home soil in 2003 when Johnson lifted the Webb Ellis trophy and again in the quarter-finals four years later (right).

With that aura intact Down Under, Australia's players could scarcely believe England would not start with Wilkinson in tomorrow's first Test.

The reality is Wilkinson has spent most of the last seven years overcoming a catalogue of injuries and, as well as he played for Toulon this season, his Six Nations form was patchy. Ex-Newcastle Falcon team-mate Toby Flood replaced Wilkinson for England's last game against France and he has retained the fly-half jersey for the Cook Cup clash in Perth.

Asked whether Johnson had considered playing on the mental scars of 2003 by starting with Wilkinson at Subiaco Oval, he said: "It is a long time ago for us. You all probably need to get over it."

Wilkinson is back on Australian soil for the first time in any capacity since England won the World Cup in 2003.

From the moment of their arrival, the England team management were inundated with requests from television and radio stations in Australia for Wilkinson to make personal appearances.

Flood is anonymous by comparison, even though he played in the 2007 World Cup final.

The 24-year-old is used to existing in Wilkinson's shadow, having been his understudy for so many years at Kingston Park and with England.

He said: "Anyone who comes over here and drops a goal to win a World Cup is going to be remembered and highly regarded.

Flood sparked a vibrant England performance against France in Paris and he ended the season by helping Leicester to win the Guinness Premiership title at Twicken-ham.

He added: "I have a great opportun-ity. I don't think I have dropped off in form since I played ahead of him against France in the Six Nations.

"If we can continue the good things from Paris and have a good first 20 minutes and build on that, then we can achieve something."

Wilkinson said Flood's "exciting" inclusion would not have come as a surprise to the Australians if they had watched a video of the France game.

Wilkinson almost produced a match-winning contribution off the bench in Paris - and he warned the Wallabies he is ready to break their hearts once again.

He said: "The local guys have been keen to talk about the olden days, which is great for them and you can tell they are still massively competitive.

"As a kicker you have to imagine those scenarios.

"Every time I finish, I ask myself if the key moment was right here, right now, how would I feel? "I don't cheat my practices so I will be as prepared as I can be."

Meanwhile, Former New Zealand rugby league international Shontayne Hape is determined to follow in the England footsteps of Jason Robinson while making his Test debut tomorrow.

The Bath centre will become the third ex-Kiwi to play Test rugby for England after Henry Paul and Lesley Vainikolo, who both failed to make the grade.

Robinson retired as one of the most successful cross-code recruits in the history of the game having won 51 caps for England, five for the Lions and a World Cup-winner's medal.

Hape will launch his own international rugby union career inspired by Robinson's achievements.

He said: "I look to guys like Jason Robinson, who switched codes and went on to do great things.

"I look to him for inspiration. I have looked at what he achieved and took out of the game.

"Being picked for England is one of the highest honours and greatest things any rugby player in England can do."

Hape won 14 caps for the Kiwis before switching codes in 2008 to join Bath from Super League club Bradford Bulls.

Tomorrow, Hape will replace the injured Riki Flutey at inside centre, one of four changes from England's promising final Six Nations performance against France.

Hooker Steve Thompson and lock Tom Palmer both start after appearing off the bench in Paris while flanker Tom Croft returns a knee injury.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2010
Words:707
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