Jonny Wilkinson: What I've Learned

England's world-cup winning legend delivers his life lessons

Most Popular

Occasionally my body says to me, “This is the right place and the right time to have a little drink”. Very, very rarely does it say that but it happens every now and again.

There is no bad Steven Seagal film. I was always a little bit shocked by his early Nico movies - they were a bit too aggressive for me - and I’m maybe less of a fan of his more recent work, which seems to involve a lot of vampires. Sometimes he’s not in the film so much these days; it’s more his stunt double. I might be splitting hairs here but I like to see a star in his film. I’d probably say that Hard To Kill and On Deadly Ground are the best. Marked for Death is very good too. You can’t argue with that. I could go on all day.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The joy of life is that we can reinvent ourselves immediately.

I grew up in Farnham from nought to 18. My dad was an independent financial adviser who then looked after me as my manager. My mum worked as a secretary for the same company as my dad. We had huge freedom, my brother and I, to go out there and be everything we wanted to be.

It’s the corniest line in the world, but by being yourself and having a genuine, selfless desire to understand other people, to find out what makes them tick and care about them, is, for me, the most attractive thing that exists.

Most Popular

I believe in my view of what God means. I believe in the idea that God  exists in all of us and connects all of us. God is everything we are and everything we have here.

When I was younger and we’d go to the pantomime I used to worry about being picked to go up on stage. It’s not me. I need to set the conditions

A stinger is where you get hit in such a way that your vertebrae pinches down on the nerve and sets off this electrical impulse, a strong one, right down your arm - or both arms - into your fingers. I’ve had them down my back too. It burns like mad. After thirty seconds, a minute or whatever it goes away. You have to wait it out. I had six in one game once. They’re not pleasant.

I don’t like seeing people being left out. At the very base level we’re all just one big team.

You’ve got to be specific about what it is that you want to achieve. For me, the whole process of achieving the big result has been about filtering back to the very start, identifying the two or three things that you can control to the best of your ability and improving your work around them. Then to adapt and get better. Being specific in your goals allows you to attack that area with precision and gets you closer to where you want to be.

I lived as intensely – if not more intensely – on the field when I went to play for Toulon. But, if you’ll excuse the oxymoron, I relaxed a lot more intensely off the field in France.

Sometimes I sit down and I love to read Lee Child, Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly. Also Matt Hilton. All those hero against the world type books. At the same time I’m massively into a bit of quantum physics and stuff that corresponds with spiritual understanding.  So I go down those two routes. I have one side where I’m feeling that desire to know and to develop myself and another that just wants pure escapism.

I used to have dreams – nightmares – where people were forcing me to smoke. Just smoking one cigarette would somehow be like a major stain on my path.

You definitely learn more from a defeat than a victory. A defeat challenges you in many more ways and it helps you to go much more into the internal, to search for answers about yourself. 

If you asked me what I would say to someone who’s recently been in a very down position, a very depressed state, and is now feeling better then I would have some advice for you. But until they’re feeling better, unless I knew them like the back of my hand, I couldn’t say anything. There are any number of great bits of advice you could give, but when you’re in that position you’re not ready to hear them. They mean nothing.

What helped me when I was in situations like that has been understanding that you’re not alone. What I would say, honestly, is speak to somebody. A professional. And definitely understand from me that speaking to someone and trying to find that help is the toughest move to make, not the weakest. Some people think that the strong thing to do is try and fight it yourself but I think that is, in a way, the giving in bit. The hard bit is saying, “I can’t do this on my own”.

What really mattered to me at the beginning of my career was me. You attach a lot more importance to who you are from a status side of things than is probably healthy. When I went through my injury period later on a lot of the mental work I did then was undoing that attachment to this whole kind of macho side I felt because of what I did.

I never went to a lot of gigs. I left it too late because I started to get a bit of a phobia about public places with too many people in them. At a concert people might be looking at you as if, like, “Are you dancing? Are you singing along?” But I did see Oasis up in Newcastle several years ago. That was a belter. Then I went to The Mighty Boosh live tour. So I have those two treats on my CV.

Professionally my life has been played out in two parts. There’s one part – one person, if you like - that prepares everything and the other person who takes over at the first whistle. He’s the egotistical one that says, “I’m here to win, I’m here to do whatever it takes”. I’ve never wanted to be that person off the field. I’ve sort of thought I’m a bit of a fraud sometimes because of the way people view you and celebrate you and all that sort of thing.

I know my way around a guitar. I’ve got a piano as well. I wouldn’t mind learning how to sing, not that I’d ever do it in public. Only behind closed doors.

When my brother Mark and I played professional rugby together at Newcastle that was undoubtedly the moment at the top of my rugby list, right there above World Cups and everything else. We always loved working as a team. I admired his ability – which I didn’t have as an obsessive kind of person – to go through stuff but be able to put it to one side and just get on with life. That was his super-strength. Mine was something else and I wanted his.

I used to be terrible with spare time but now I crave it. An opportunity to go and do whatever you want is lovely.

How many rugby balls have I kicked? I thought about that recently. I was trying to total up whether I’d hit the big million. I don’t know. If we totted up how much time I’d spent kicking we’d be into years. I’ve kicked enough.


BB King
Boris Becker
Andrew Flintoff

Kendall Gigi
This Magazine Photoshopped Out Gigi Hadid And Kendall Jenner's Knees Because Why Not?
​​And the internet lost their shit​
Nocturnal Animals
Nocturnal Animals Review: Tom Ford's Smart, Multilayered Thriller Is A Delight
​Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal​ star in one of the best films of the year so far​
The iPhone Has A Secret Keyboard Nobody Knew About
Our eyes are finally open
These New Zelda Trailers Will Make You Crave A 'Nintendo Switch'
Nintendo's back in the game​
Gary Lineker
The Sun Is Trying To Get Gary Lineker Sacked For Showing Basic Human Decency
He's handling it well​
This Is The Saddest Song In The World... According To Scientists
Go ahead, give it a listen
Just For Fun, Let's Watch This Woman Swallow A Whole Stick Of Butter Together
​Things are always butter together!​
100 People Showed Their 'O' Faces In This Video And It's... A Lot
​*clears throat awkwardly*​
What It's Like To Get Stung By The World's Most Painful Insect
An entomologist explains why getting bitten by a bullet ant is something you never want to experience
Blink-182's Newest Music Video Is A Throwback To The '90s (With Nude Instagram Models)
Here's Lele Pons, Hannah Stocking, and Vale Genta streaking through the streets