After a career littered with comebacks, it is no surprise to see England playmaker Jonny Wilkinson making another return in time for the World Cup.
Wilkinson's fourth World Cup had looked certain to be his first as a backup after Toby Flood started 12 straight matches as England flyhalf, from last year's tour of Australia through this year's victorious Six Nations campaign.
But Flood's wobble in the warm-up defeat to Wales combined with Wilkinson's sparkling form for French club Toulon mean that a man until recently portrayed by critics as a relic from less expansive age could be lining up at No.10 against Argentina on September 10.
And Wilkinson is no longer smothered by the expectation that followed him even before he landed the extra-time drop goal that won the 2003 final.
Argentina captain Felipe Contepomi has played with Wilkinson at Toulon and has no doubt that he should be England's first-choice No.10 when the teams meet in Dunedin.
"He's one of the best players around the world," Contepomi said. "Jonny can do whatever game you ask him to do. He is a good runner and sidestepper, good in defense, has one of the best handling abilities I've seen.
"He has one of the best passes in international rugby and one of the best boots."
The strength of that boot is clear from the fact that the 32-year-old Wilkinson is still regularly swapping places with New Zealand's Dan Carter as international rugby's leading scorer despite losing almost four years of his career to injury.
Wilkinson was England's lynchpin from the age of 19 until injuries kept him out of the side for the 1,169 days that followed the left-footed drop goal in Sydney that still seems destined to be his signature achievement in rugby.
Renowned for his single-mindedness and dedication to endless hours of solo training, Wilkinson said that enforced break from the national side with knee, arm, shoulder and kidney problems forced him to refocus and relax more.
He studied musical instruments, languages and even Buddhism, leaving him a more liberated figure.
"I came to understand that I had been living a life in which I barely featured," Wilkinson said in a 2008 interview with The Times. "I had spent my time immersed in the fear of not achieving my goals and then spent my time beating myself up about the mistakes I made along the way."
Like the rest of the side, Flood disappointed as England lost the chance of a Six Nations Grand Slam with a final-round defeat to Ireland. Wilkinson then got his chance in the opening warm-up against Wales and was voted man-of-the-match in a 23-19 win.
Flood came back for the return match in Cardiff a week later and was largely anonymous, leaving Wilkinson to start in the 20-9 win over Ireland in the last warm-up match.
"I don't think I've ever been in charge of that 10 shirt," Flood said. "It has always been hugely difficult for me to have it. The scenario has always been that Jonny, given his opportunity, will have a standout game and he did that."
Wilkinson's positional alignment seemed to contribute to England's dismal early performances under Martin Johnson. He looks to be more alert these days - looking around him for runners and slipping the occasional disguised pass - but it is unclear whether his previous default of hanging back in a kicking position was his decision or that of the coaching staff.
Flood and Ben Youngs had seemed destined to be England's halfback pairing, but Flood is not bitter at what looms as a change in fortunes.
"Jonny has so much history behind him and is such a fantastic player," Flood said. "Yet that drives me on too, serving as a tap on my shoulder that this guy is always going to be pushing me.
"The good thing is that we enjoy a good relationship. It is not as if we are constantly trying to get one over on each other. Instead, each week we push each other to get better."
Flood made his club debut for Newcastle alongside Wilkinson and the pair could team up again if Johnson decides to experiment at inside center, where Shontayne Hape is the only specialist in the squad.
"When I started at Newcastle, I played outside him and we were never really competing at that stage for the same spot," Flood said. "Our friendship and the understanding of the game grew from there. He never talked down to me at the start and encouraged me if I had a bad game.
"If I am competing against anyone else, it is against myself."
The selection of Wilkinson for two of England's last three matches before arriving in New Zealand could be the spur Flood needs to add more mental toughness to his undoubted talent. Seemingly impossible to ruffle before that comprehensive 24-8 Six Nations loss to a pumped up Ireland side, Flood has looked uncharacteristically fallible since.
"When I see him out there, it is the best thing for me," Flood said. "I am lucky that I have always had him around in my career and I don't know what will happen when he is gone because I will have nobody over my shoulder just driving me on.
"That is why he is the greatest flyhalf in England's history because he ultimately has no self-awareness or self-respect for his own body. He just wants to get better and better and better."
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