Jonny Wilkinson kicks on (albeit with a few misses) after international retirement

Watch video highlights from Jonny Wilkinson's first match since announcing his retirement from international rugby courtesy of ESPN, which broadcasts Top 14 French Rugby. Martin Gillingham, ESPN's Top 14 commentator, also gives his view on Wilkinson's performance for Toulon last night.

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The script for Monday night’s Top 14 clash against Agen dictated that a little more than 24 hours after embarking on his “nouvelle vie sans le XV de la Rose” Jonny Wilkinson would evoke memories of 2003 and land the drop goal late in the game to secure the points for Toulon.

Alas, England’s World Cup winner doesn’t do scripts – at least not other people’s – and on a night when he missed more shots off the kicking tee than he landed he actually departed the fray with almost 20 minutes to go.

Not that it was a poor night for Wilkinson - even when judged by the strict standards of perfection he demands of himself. It is just that the master’s normally flawless left peg had a night off.

In almost all other aspects of his game, Wilkinson was at his vintage best. Indeed, for those who haven’t seen much of him in action for his French employers Wilkinson demonstrated a level of skill recent England displays may have suggested had left him.

Two of the three tries Toulon scored before Wilkinson was replaced came courtesy of the 32-year-old’s final pass. The first, barely three minutes into the game, was long and looping and sent the Fijian Gabi Lovobalavu over in the corner while, the second, timed and delivered in such a way as to create the space for Leonardo Senatore to smash over, set up the bonus point score. A third pass - an audacious, reverse, spiralling number with a degree of difficulty right up there with anything Tom Daley can muster – went to hand and started off another flowing move that only just fell short of the try line.

On this evidence, the passing of Wilkinson’s international career will not only be mourned but missed.