I was absolutely infuriated about how Jonny Wilkinson was treated by both British press and much of the public during, and after, the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Oh how short the public memory can be - and how fickle the armchair sports pundit. One of the many reasons this book is a must-read is that Jonny never let much slip in interviews during his career, being the consummate professional he is. But here, every possible emotion JW has experienced in his lengthy career is poured forth without compromise. After the first few chapters of this book, only the most informed of people on JW will not be stunned by what he has to say.
The perfectionist nature of the man is known - but learning the extent to which this trait has consumed his life came as a shock. The frank and sometimes distorted view JW has about his own talents and abilities are unbelievable. After reading quite a few Rugby Union autobiographies now - Ronan O'Gara, Lewis Moody, Martin Johnson and Donncha O'Callaghan among them - it is clear that a lot of insecurity exists in large union squads about competition for places. Keen to know how this affected JW during his significant spells through injury, I was extremely saddened by what I read. The man has had, despite the large point totals and achievements, a bittersweet career; and one of the most interesting points of the book is how the 2003 victory represented both a zenith and a nadir in his life.
Of every single sporting autobiography I have ever read, in terms of brutal honesty, only 'Open' by Andre Agassi comes remotely close to this. However, JW's book, unsurprisingly, is without any of the razzmatazz and hyperbole of 'Open', which leaves the reader with the closest thing to the working of a sporting mind yet written. Fantastic prose and style, and, despite the aforementioned serious insight, there is some humour and fun along the way.
I would go as far as to suggest that everyone who claims to be an English union fan should read this book. JW has been the ultimate professional and servant for his country; and all without the gaffs from Botham and public vulgarity of Beckham. Anyone who rubbished JW during injury, or forgot what he has achieved should read this and then feel truly ashamed of themselves. An utterly compelling read.