Wilkinson man on a mission as Toulon return from the brink

Toulon 19 Ospreys 14
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The Independent Online

Anyone who questions Jonny Wilkinson's desire to pull on the England No 10 shirt this autumn should look away now.

Wilkinson produced a stirring performance in the final 20 minutes of this cosmopolitan contest to seal a landmark European victory for Toulon – and take pole position in the race to win the fly-half spot next month.

The 2003 World Cup winner's chances of wresting back the coveted jersey from Leicester's Toby Flood, who shone on the summer tour in Australia, had increased after Flood's late withdrawal in Italy on Saturday through injury. Then, in front of national manager Martin Johnson and attack coach Brian Smith, Wilkinson scored 14 points to cement his impressive early-season form in the south of France.

Wilkinson, 31, said: "Playing for England is every person's dream. I've been able to do that but it doesn't change my feelings now. In fact, those feelings build as you get older. Representing your country is without doubt the ultimate feeling. Nothing has changed for me and it never will."

Wilkinson swapped nine points with Dan Biggar in a dour opening hour before the Wales wing Shane Williams lit up this glamour tie with a trademark solo effort. Toulon were staring down the barrel of a shock home defeat. But cometh the hour, cometh the man – Wilkinson almost single-handedly propelled his side to victory from 14-9 down.

Firstly, he struck an excellent penalty from the near touchline to fire the French outfit to within two points. Then Wilkinson proved he is not just a one-dimensional kicker by creating Paul Sackey's match-winner with four minutes to play.

Wilkinson added: "I'd be enormously disappointed if I was the same player as 10 years ago. I've learnt and been through so much but my philosophy is still to get better every day."

Toulon: Try Sackey; Conversion Wilkinson; Penalties: Wilkinson 4; Ospreys: Try Williams; Penalties Biggar 3.

Toulon R Lamont; P Sackey, M Kefu, G Messina, B Lapeyre; J Wilkinson, M Henjak; S Taumoepeau, J Orioli, D Kubriashvili, D Schofield, C Samson, O Missoup, J Fernandez Lobbe (capt), G Smith. Replacements L Magnaval for M Henjkak (61), B Basteres for S Taumoepeau (62).

Ospreys L Byrne; T Bowe, A Bishop, J Hook, S Williams; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, R Hibbard, A Jones, I Gough, AW Jones (capt), J Collins, J Thomas, M Holah. Replacements N Walker for S Williams, 68.

Referee A Lewis (Ireland).