Heineken Cup: Jonny Wilkinson talks up Toulon to his possible successors


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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson may be famous for fulminating about the solitary moments in a sportsman’s life, but the feted fly-half’s latest reflections on whether he will retire next summer – after Saturday’s  32-20 Heineken Cup win for his club Toulon over Exeter Chiefs – were made with others in mind.

Toulon are in talks with Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny about a transfer, and are reckoned to be keen on Leicester’s England fly-half Toby Flood, too. Wilkinson, 34, recommended both men sample this quixotic, star-studded, Cote d’Azur club. He also offered some advice.

Halfpenny appears very close to signing and Toulon’s owner-chairman, Mourad Boudjellal, has promised to sign a fly-half for next season. The provenance of that man is key. Flood may be in line for a large salary hike while endangering his prospects of playing for England at the next World Cup, but it could depend on Wilkinson quitting a 17-year club career because Toulon will be limited by French league rules to 16 players classed as foreigners.

 “I have been speaking to Toby, [though] not about anything like that,” said Wilkinson of his friend and former Newcastle club-mate.

“[With Toulon] you bring everything with you that you have got. You don’t come here to sponge off Toulon or sponge off the area or the climate. You bring yourself and if in doing so you add something then you get it all back.

“Someone like Leigh Halfpenny coming here is amazing but only if we see what is great about him. That is the beauty of the challenge for me. When I see other guys playing brilliantly it makes it all worthwhile.”

Wilkinson came on as a last-quarter substitute to steer Toulon, the Cup holders, to the top of Pool Two, scoring his first Heineken Cup try in 25 matches over 12 years in the process.