Jonny Wilkinson aims to finish on a high after confirming retirement
Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson confirms he will retire from rugby at the end of the season
Jonny Wilkinson remains focused on winning more silverware after confirming he will retire from rugby in the summer.
One of rugby’s recent worst-kept secrets, it comes as no surprise that one of the players of a generation will call time on a stellar career after leading his team-mates into battle for two more titles this month.
Barring a major injury in the next 12 days, the former England outside-half will almost certainly lead his club Toulon as they look to retain the Heineken Cup with a win over Saracens in Cardiff on Saturday—the day before his 35th birthday—ahead of their other ultimate goal of securing the Top 14 title a week later with a win over Castres.
I would like to focus entirely on, and save all my energy for, the team and the two last games of the season
“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,” Wilkinson said in a statement on Toulon’s club website.
“But it’s not the time to talk all about my retirement as I would like to focus entirely on, and save all my energy for, the team and the two last games of the season.
“I want to genuinely thank all of you for what you have given me and for making the last 17 years something I will never forget.”
Wilkinson first burst on to the stage as a teenager with Newcastle Falcons, where he started life at inside centre and was even used as a winger for England against Ireland at the age of 18.
Despite links to bigger clubs, he spent 12 seasons at Kingston Park, settling into life at number 10 when Rob Andrew was made director of rugby at the Falcons, winning the Premiership and the Powergen Cup in 2001 and 2004.
But it was on the international stage where his career took off with Six Nations success in 2000, 2001 as well as a grand slam win in 2003 before kicking that famous drop-goal in the final minute of extra time at the 2003 Rugby World Cup against Australia in Sydney to secure a 20-17 win.
An uncompromising warrior for an outside-half never afraid of getting stuck into tackles, the Surrey-born star struggled to stay fit, but was an integral part of England’s squad that lost in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final against hosts South Africa.
More silverware came in 2011 with another Six Nations win, despite plying his trade in the south of France with Toulon.
While at Toulon, Wilkinson has become a local hero and, despite retiring from international rugby after 91 appearances for the Red Rose in December 2011, he will forever be remembered not just for his heroics in Sydney, but for being among an elite group of players to score more than 1,000 points in international rugby—currently only All Blacks outside-half Dan Carter has more than Wilkinson’s 1,246.
Expected to be his final season last year, Wilkinson led Toulon to their first Heineken Cup title with a narrow win over Top 14 rivals Clermont Auvergne in Dublin and was voted European player of the year. A feat few would bet against happening again when he runs out at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday afternoon.