Jonny Wilkinson is reaching the age of 40 next month and he is still kicking goals – only this time in the snow.
England's most iconic rugby player flew over to the La Plagne ski resort, 2,000 meters higher in the Alps for commercial engagement.
Two teams of French snow-rugby players are gathered to play, meet Wilkinson and see the Webb Ellis Cup that he lifted 16 years ago in Sydney.
Jonny Wilkinson plays a rugby ball in the La Plagne ski resort, 2,000 m above sea level in the Alps
Two teams of French snow-rugby players are gathered to play and Wilkinson is also participating
With the World Cup five months away, Wilkinson is in demand. He has always been. As a Land Rover ambassador, he promotes a campaign – but he also wants to participate in the competition, so he has taken his boots with him.
Joyless flicking comes from the back of each hand, talking to his teammates in both French and English, and posing for each photo, Wilkinson beams through.
When setting up the photo they all want, from an icy drop goal, he is still just as careful. Wilkinson practices his standing foot. A pair of left legs swing before the muscle memory literally enters. Drop, dive, rub to the bottom of the ball, over the posts.
As he puts it, this is Wilkinson & # 39; bathing & # 39; in his art.
& # 39; I would probably never choose to kick ice cream! & # 39 ;, he laughs. & # 39; But it's fun to take your passion wherever you want. I can kick a ball and stand there for 10 minutes and just bathe in it, & Wilkinson says with all the introspection he has become known for.
& # 39; It's so beautiful to do. My path to express my being.
& # 39; Previously & # 39; I have to take over & # 39 ;, now I couldn't give a toss. I kick a ball, because that connection between me and life is in that action. & # 39;
Wilkinson beat the deciding points that saw England win the 2003 Rugby World Cup
However, after the celebrations, Wilkinson now admits that he was struggling to continue spiritually
In 2003, as the hero of England & # 39; s greatest triumph, he struggled to continue. At 40 and with the benefit of experience, life is now & # 39; beautiful & # 39; – but then, struggling with his mental health despite all the glory, it was anything but.
Answering a question about Owen Farrell & # 39; s workload of leading, playing-making and goal-kicking, reveals the fear of his own time with England.
& # 39; If you see yourself as someone who has to make everything right – which I have done for a long time – and make sure that everyone around you is happy, you see a challenge & he says. & # 39; There is a ridiculous amount of pressure.
& # 39; It is the space that you enter where you think you know everything.
& # 39; I ran away after the 2003 World Cup when I thought I knew how it worked and suddenly noticed that I hated rugby, thinking: "Everyone is against me, there is so much pressure" Owen is willing to work on himself, which means that he can go outside and do his best.
& # 39; Most people would say: & # 39; Jeez, he has to lead the captain & # 39 ;. When do you ever manage captaincy? If you ask a seven year old what they want to be, they say captain of England.
& # 39; They don't say, "I wouldn't mind being a captain, so I can just get through".
& # 39; Owen wants to be the goalkeeper because he likes it, not because he needs the pressure. It's the same as kicking balls here. I like to kick balls. & # 39;
Wilkinson spoke exclusively with Will Kelleher of Sportsmail and opened his mental problems
Nearly 40 years and with the benefit of experience, Wilkinson admits that life & # 39; beautiful & # 39; after he retired
But he never liked what came with it – it made his mental condition worse. Wilkinson is a private man. He is now married and has recently welcomed a child into the world, but keeps those details to himself.
He is also happy, but his eternal wish was that he could have paused his life the moment Mike Catt kicked the ball into the stands to end the 2003 World Cup final at the Telstra Stadium.
& # 39; You are on the verge of something, incredible things are waiting but you are not there yet & # 39 ;, he explains. & # 39; It's the nicest feeling. It is a bit like being in a store with a lot of money. You make your choice, you buy exactly what you want, but it is not as good as before when you have not committed yourself.
& # 39; I feel that way now. When I was playing, I feared for the unknown. My life is now full of the unknown and it is exciting. & # 39;
He has been retired for five years and feels free from the shackles of Jonny Wilkinson.
& # 39; I love my life, but it has nothing to do with the content, & # 39; he says. & # 39; It's the opposite. When I was part of the World Cup winning team, I had never felt as empty as afterwards.
& # 39; When we won a few championships in Toulon, I left and there was no sunset waiting for me to walk inside. I discovered that if I lost this idea that I was an important person, I could have a whole new world.
& # 39; I watch rugby and think: & # 39; Would i go back? & # 39; No chance.
Wilkinson now thinks it's time for rugby and sports to continue with mental health issues
Wilkinson is an ambassador for Land Rover, a proud global partner of Rugby World Cup 2019
Mensen People say, "It must have been great, 24, playing for England, you had everything", then I go to a school and I have to explain to the children who I am!
& # 39; But they say, "Everyone wanted to give you things for free … those were the days!" No they were not.
& # 39; I have been trying to keep everything under control all my life. That's why I was injured and didn't play for England for four years – my body never had the chance to breathe. & # 39;
Now Wilkinson thinks it's time for rugby and sports to continue with mental health issues.
& # 39; There is a danger that it will become a message of coping – that means we can help you cope for the rest of your life, & # 39; he says.
& # 39; When you hear that you think – & # 39; I don't want to last 40 or 50 years & # 39 ;. I thought I had done everything possible to do at 24. I thought I was the man. I realized that I could not be further from the truth.
& # 39; I started controlling the rest. You ask someone around me at that moment, I was terrible. But life is great now. & # 39;
The boy wonder has grown up and now, at 40, Wilkinson seems finally satisfied.
SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Jonny Wilkinson set the benchmark for every No 10
Deep down, I think the best No 10s – Beauden Barrett, Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton – still regard Jonny Wilkinson as the benchmark.
Jonny has taken the game to a new level. He was legendary because he stopped the England team bus because he always hung around to practice his kick. Players nowadays talk about doing their & # 39; extra & # 39; s & # 39; and much of it goes back to Jonny's approach.
I can't believe he's turning 40, it seems like he kicked that drop-goal in Sydney yesterday and I want to thank him for everything he did for England in that great period.
I remember Jason Robinson coming out of the Rugby League for the first time. He came with a new skill set. His footwork was another level and Jonny came to me at the end of the session and said: & have you seen his footwork? We have to get our footwork like that. "He was like a sponge. He came to the coaches and pointed out where we had to work harder.
Jonny, Joel Stransky and Dan Carter were all time-determining flight halves. In 2003, every coach in the world would have wanted Jonny as their No. 10. He was invaluable, but I never thought he was the right candidate for a captain – he had enough on his plate.
The thing about Jonny, however, is that he would always push himself to new levels. He proved me wrong about the captain when he went to Toulon and I saw a video of him in the dressing room, who managed these legends in fluent French. He gave everything. Jonny summarized that: he wanted to be the best in everything he did … and he usually was.
Land Rover is a proud global partner of Rugby World Cup 2019 and has a heritage in supporting rugby at all levels, from grassroots to elite. Follow @LandRoverRugby