Heineken Cup 2014: Jonny Wilkinson privileged to lead Toulon title defence

Heineken Cup 2014: Jonny Wilkinson says he feels privileged to captain Toulon to their title defence

By Gareth Llewellyn
Toulon
23
Saracens
6

Jonny Wilkinson called his Heineken Cup success with Toulon “a privilege” as he led his club to the defence of their European title.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup winner was influential throughout as the French club defeated Aviva Premiership finalists Saracens 23-6 at the Millennium Stadium and has set his sights on finishing the job with a Top14 final win over Castres next week.

I have lived 17 years where every weekend your life hangs in the balance. It might be nice now that that’s no longer the case

Jonny Wilkinson

“It’s a privilege to have been part of that game and to have won it, I couldn’t have asked for more,” said the Toulon captain who was influential in both tries and kicked 13 points.

“It’s the end of a long journey but my mind is already starting to tick towards that moment next week.”

Toulon have fell at the final hurdle in recent years in the Top14, notably to Castres a year ago, but Wilkinson conceded that in professional rugby you can’t look beyond your current opponents.

“Against a team like Saracens you can’t even consider thinking beyond what’s in front of you,” he added. “You play like there is no tomorrow. You play like it is everything you have got and if that means some guys don’t make it through to next week, well that’s why you have a squad.”

Built up as Wilkinson’s last foray on British soil, it was always going to be his party the day before his 35th birthday and the 67,578 spectators inside Cardiff’s famous rugby venue certainly played their part in getting behind Wilkinson.

Despite his formidable reputation for perfection which more often than not secures results, the self-conscious Wilkinson still questions his involvement at a club like Toulon which is full of superstars from the northern and southern hemisphere and hinted that he has no plans to reverse his decision to hang up his boots and a coaching career beckons.

“I’m kind of wondering why I’m still playing at this club when you’ve got Frederic Michelak and Matt Giteau playing that well, so in a way I know it’s time to leave— it’s in good hands,” he said.

“I’d like to take a bit of time out to realise where I am after all this but I also want to be with this team.

“I’ve got so many friends there who I want to see reach their potential—I want to see this club reach its potential—so that’s huge for me but maybe it’s also the opportunity to just relax for a bit.”

Injuries robbed Wilkinson of the honour of becoming an England centurion and potentially further silverware with his only other club Newcastle Falcons, but the relaxed Wilkinson is looking forward to not living on the edge has he has done for his entire career.

“It’s not do or die from now on. I have lived 17 years where every weekend your life hangs in the balance.

“It might be nice now that that’s no longer the case. I won’t wake up on Saturday morning and have that horrible feeling in my stomach and have to worry about the what-ifs.”

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