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EXCLUSIVE: This will be England’s best team ever – Jonny Wilkinson

EnglandJonny Wilkinson has declared that the current all-conquering England side can eclipse the achievements of the World Cup-winning class of 2003.

Wilkinson says he sees similarities between the side he graced and the one enjoying a 12-match winning run.

He explained: “A combination of that solid style plus the ambition and the desire and the collective spirit is no different to what we had in 2003. This is just a newer version and it is therefore likely to be a better version.

“While I’d like to think it would be close if those two teams played each other, you can’t hide from the fact that these guys have moved on and they are bigger, quicker, younger, faster and fitter.

“So, fair play to them, I couldn’t be a bigger supporter.”

Wilkinson, who was speaking at his induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, said he was full of admiration for the way Eddie Jones has turned things around.

“It’s awesome and great to see,” he said. “He is growing and creating an environment where there is a degree of inevitability about the next game and the next step and the performance, which is difficult to do.

“I guess that comes from the solidity that having firm foundations in place from Stuart Lancaster’s reign through to now. He is building on top of that with this new and exciting style and an enthusiasm and passion which is becoming infectious for supporters.”

Wilkinson was one of 12 new inductees alongside former England team-mate, Lawrence Dallaglio, on the day the Hall of Fame opened its doors for the first time in the Warwickshire town that gave the sport its name.

They join Clive Woodward, Martin Johnson and Jason Leonard, as Hall of Fame representatives from the era when England ruled the world.

Fly-half Wilkinson paid tribute to all his team-mates for their role in his journey to the top and his place among 132 other legends of the game.

“It is a phenomenal honour and a huge privilege and source of pride,” he said. “The joy of rugby is you learn very quickly that no-one is less or more important than anyone else.  Every single player played such a huge part.”

JON NEWCOMBE

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