England chief Stuart Lancaster hails ‘complete’ Jonny Wilkinson
England head coach Stuart Lancaster pays tribute to Jonny Wilkinson after No10 announced retirement
Stuart Lancaster has paid tribute to Jonny Wilkinson as a “complete player” after the former England star announced his retirement.
The current England head coach believes that the Toulon outside-half single-handedly changed the professional era of rugby union.
I can’t actually think of a player in rugby who would have had the same impact on the sport as him
“Jonny has the full repertoire as a fly-half,” Lancater said.
“He’s got an unbelievable kicking game, his defence is outstanding, he has great distribution off either hand. To do that so consistently for so long sets him apart.
“The point I’d emphasise more is the way he prepared to play the game. The detail and preparation he did off the field made him the complete player. His influence on so many rugby players across the world in that respect is phenomenal.”
Wilkinson’s announcement that he will retire in the summer comes in the week he leads Toulon in the defence of their Heineken Cup title against Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens at the Millennium Stadium, the day before his 35th birthday.
But there will be a second chance at glory a week later as he aims to guide his French club to their first Top14 title against reigning champions Castres.
A double trophy haul would be the perfect way for Wilkinson to close the final chapter on a stellar 17-year career which began with the Premiership title in his first season with Newcastle Falcons as a teenager.
“I’ve never had the privilege to coach Jonny but he will get a huge number of plaudits and rightly so,” Lancaster added.
“He has changed the way the game has been played, but more importantly changed the way in which people prepare to play the game.”
Wilkinson may have called time on his England career in December 2011, in the year he won his fourth Six Nations title, but Lancaster insists that this legacy will live on in his personal quest for perfection and unrelenting dedication to his fitness and performance, an attitude which the England boss is seeing in players he is working with now.
“I can’t actually think of a player in rugby who would have had the same impact on the sport as him,” Lancaster said.
“I know from coaching players who have been in the same team as him…the amount of times they’ve said to me ‘I thought I was professional, I thought I prepare well, I thought I worked hard, but he raised the bar to a different level’.”
Wilkinson confirmed his widely-anticipated retirement through the Toulon club website on Monday morning.