Wednesday 25 April 2018

Wilkinson confirms post-season retirement

Jonny Wilkinson will bring to an end a glittering career at the end of the season
Jonny Wilkinson will bring to an end a glittering career at the end of the season

World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson has announced that he will retire at the end of the season.

The fly-half, most famous for winning the 2003 World Cup for England with a drop goal, made the announcement on the website of his club, Toulon.

The 34-year-old, who will turn 35 the day after Toulon's Heineken Cup final against Saracens on Saturday, has long been expected to call time on his glittering career.

"I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby," he said.

"It goes without saying that I have an enormous number of people to thank for their support from all around the world but especially here in France and in England.

"This however is not at all the time to be concentrating on this as I would like to focus all my attention and energy on the team and these final two games of the season.

"I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I will never forget."

Wilkinson retires as one of just five men to score 1000 points in international rugby, with his 1246 second only to New Zealand great Dan Carter.

He made his debut for Newcastle in 1997 and stayed with them until 2009, winning the Tetleys Bitter Cup twice in that time. It was during his days with the Falcons that he came to the attention of then-England coach Sir Clive Woodward.

The duo would become central to the achievements of the Red Rose and the would enjoy unparallelled success together.

Wilkinson made his debut as an 18-year-old and, after a chastening experience on the 'Tour of Hell' to Australia, he won the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Six Nations, with those successes leading to Wilkinson's signature moment at the 2003 World Cup.

His metronomic boot kicked England to the final and then, against hosts Australia, he landed the most valuable three points of his life with a minute of extra-time left, earning his country a 20-17 victory. He ended the tournament with 113 points.

Injuries - often caused by his no-holds-barred approach to tackling - would set in after that and he was never able to be as dominant a force as he once was in the national shirt, but he still played a key role in taking England to the 2007 World Cup final, while he won the Six Nations in 2011.

He retired from international rugby with 91 caps in December 2011, by which point he was already making a new career for himself in France.

Well-known as a perfectionist, Wilkinson took his distinctive kicking style to Toulon in 2009 and immediately became the fulcrum of their side. He won the Heineken Cup with them last season and this weekend can bow out with back-to-back victories in the competition.

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