Jonny Wilkinson retirement: Former England fly-half confirms he will bring the curtain down on his playing career at the end of the season
Wilkinson has two matches remaining in which he could land the Heineken Cup and the Top 14 trophies before ending his illustrious career
Monday 19 May 2014
Jonny Wilkinson has announced he will retire at the end of the season, bringing down the curtain on a glittering career.
The fly-half, most famous for winning the 2003 World Cup for England with a dramatic drop goal against Australia, made the announcement on the website of his club, Toulon.
The 34-year-old, who will turn 35 the day after Toulon's Heineken Cup final against Saracens on Saturday, has long been expected to call time on his playing days.
Wilkinson could still add two more trophies to his collection with a Top 14 final against Castres to follow this weekend's European showpiece.
"I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby," he said.
"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.
"This however is not at all the time to be concentrating on this as I would like to focus all my attention and energy on the team and these final two games of the season.
"I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I will never forget."
Wilkinson retires as one of just five men to score 1000 points in international rugby, with his 1246 second only to New Zealand great Dan Carter.
Carter stated earlier this year that Wilkinson should go down as one the best players of all time.
"If I was thinking about the best rugby players of all time he would be up there," Carter said.
"He's the ultimate professional, probably works harder than any other player in the world and he deserves all the accolades, rewards and success he's had throughout his career."
Wilkinson made his debut for Newcastle in 1997 and stayed with them until 2009, winning the Tetleys Bitter Cup twice in that time. It was during his days with the Falcons that he came to the attention of then-England coach Sir Clive Woodward.
The duo would become central to the achievements of the Red Rose and they enjoyed unparalleled success together.
Wilkinson made his debut as an 18-year-old and, after a chastening experience on the 'Tour of Hell' to Australia, he won the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Six Nations, with those successes leading to Wilkinson's signature moment at the 2003 World Cup.
His metronomic boot kicked England to the final and then, against hosts Australia, he landed the most valuable three points of his life with a minute of extra-time left, earning his country a 20-17 victory.
He ended the tournament having scored 113 points.
Injuries - often caused by his no-holds-barred approach to tackling - would set in after that and he was never able to be as dominant a force as he once was in the national shirt, but he still played a key role in taking England to the 2007 World Cup final, while he won the Six Nations in 2011.
He retired from international rugby with 91 caps in December 2011, by which point he was already making a new career for himself in France.
Well-known as a perfectionist, Wilkinson took his distinctive kicking style to Toulon in 2009 and immediately became the fulcrum of their side.
He won the Heineken Cup last season after kicking all of his team's 24 points to beat Saracens in the semi-final.
A similar feat against the same opponents this weekend would see Wilkinson secure back-to-back victories in the competition.
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