Positivity the buzz word for Connacht’s Wilkinson

Guinness PRO12 Editor

14 Sep 2011

It would be easy to be down in the dumps if you were in Connacht prop Brett Wilkinson’s shoes but he maintains the power of positive thinking has revived his World Cup dream.

Wilkinson was right in the mix to be on the plane to New Zealand having impressed in Declan Kidney’s 43-man World Cup training squad until he suffered a grade three tear of his hamstring.

As opposed to feeling sorry for himself, Wilkinson merely knuckled down and came off the bench in the 13-11 RaboDirect Pro12 defeat of the Scarlets – three weeks ahead of schedule.

Being on Ireland’s stand-by list that puts the 27-year-old right back in contention to be a part of the World Cup given the rate of the attrition in the front-row as evidenced by England prop Andrew Sheridan’s withdrawal on Tuesday.

But for the moment, Wilkinson is only concentrating on working his way back to full fitness with Connacht – even if he has his mobile phone on extra loud just in case.

He said: “It was great being back becuase I have never been out that long before.

“It was the worst possible timing. I knew straight away that it was bad. I got over the emotions pretty quickly and just set my mind on getting back to full fitness.

“You think ‘what if’ occasionally but if anything it has made me hungrier to play again. You don’t have time to mope around.

“By staying positive and telling yourself you are going to get better I recovered quicker. I was back three weeks quicker than I should have been.

“Declan rang every now and then to let me know I was not crossed off any lists. I am on standby and who knows.

“All I am thinking about is getting into the Connacht team. Just to be fit is the main thing but if I want to put my hand up for selection I have to start playing well.”

Growing up in South Africa, Wilkinson’s talent was spotted at an early age by former Ulster pair Alan Solomons and Robbie Kempson at the University of Cape Town.

An offer was pending from Currie Cup franchise Western Province but Wilkinson instead decided to up sticks and move to Connacht in 2005.

It is fair to say with a century of appearances now under his belt as well as becoming Irish-qualified on residency grounds, Wilkinson has not looked back and neither have Connacht.

When he first joined Connacht were very much the poor relations of the Irish provinces but as Wilkinson, Mike McCarthy and Sean Cronin’s example has proved, the Sportsground can produce international rugby players.

“We are in constant contact with Declan,” added Wilkinson. “He gave Mike his chance and we are knocking on his door now.

“You do see a lot of the Ireland coaching staff at the Sportsground. It is good to know they are watching us.

“In the past you would not see guys from the Ireland set-up down here. Now they are in constant communication with the Eric and the coaches here.

“There’s definitely been a mentality shift at the club. No-one seconds for settle best anymore. The coaches are pushing the players like never before and in turn the players are pushing the coaches.

“We have made great strides in the last year. We got off the bottom of the table and now the bar has been set higher than that. We certainly don’t want to be taking any backwards steps.

“I have been very impressed with how Connacht have started the season. They went to Treviso in very tough conditions and battled for a win.

“Coming from behind to beat the Scarlets also shows the character of the team. But two wins in a row is nothing and we have set ourselves bigger targets and goals.”