Wilkinson missed the last two games of the Six Nations with injury and in his absence Toby Flood and Shane Geraghty laid claim to the England number 10 shirt.

Both played a huge role in England's victory over France and although they were part of a losing team in Wales, they showed enough class to suggest that England had a bright future at stand-off.

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Flood and Geraghty are both seen as running half-backs that fit into the game plan of coach Brian Ashton, while Wilkinson is mostly see as a kicking machine.

But Andrew believes that Wilkinson will be in contention to help defend the World Cup and that the injury-prone player just needs a decent run of games.

"There is no question Jonny can play a leading role for England," said Andrew, who was Wilkinson's coach at Newcastle for over a decade.

"I know the way Jonny can play and, in many respects, would like to play. We all know he can go down the other road - using the boot - if needed and that is possibly the way he is best remembered.

"But, if you look at some of the rugby England played in 2001 and 2002, he was an instrumental part of that English game.

"The important thing about Jonny is that, at the moment, he needs some rugby."

Andrew also believes that the future looks bright for England, despite finishing third in the Six Nations and failing to win away from Twickenham.

Ashton blooded a number of young players during the tournament and Andrew insists this bodes well for the future.

In addition to Flood and Geraghty, 21-year-olds Tom Rees, David Strettle and Simon Haskell also impressed during the tournament, while Harlequins' Nick Easter also caught the eye at number eight.

"It was a very positive Six Nations in many respects," Andrew added.

"We have blooded a lot of new players and won our three home games which is the first place you start when you are trying to rebuild something. England were even struggling to win at home prior to that.

"The long-term future looks very bright. The increase in size of our pool of Test players is a positive shift.

"And one of the important things to have come from the Six Nations is that, for the first time in three years, England are looking forward rather than looking back.

"The short-term challenge is about getting the right balance between youth and experience to deliver what Brian wants delivered heading into the World Cup.

"The last World Cup team took six years to develop and we have six months.

"But if we do get that balance right there have been enough signs in this tournament that we can be positive moving forward."

England prepare for the World Cup with a two-Test series in South Africa (May 26 and June 2), followed by friendlies with Wales (Aug 4) and France (Aug 11) at Twickenham, and a return game with France in Marseille (Aug 18).

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