Wilkinson to retire at end of the season

May 20, 2014 - 1:11:00 am

TOULON, France: England World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson (pictured) announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the season after Toulon’s European Cup and French Top 14 finals.

“I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby,” the 34-year-old said in a statement on his club’s website.

“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,

“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.”

The fly-half, most famous for winning the 2003 World Cup for England with an extra-time drop goal against Australia, only ever played for two clubs during his 17-year long career, joining big-spending Toulon from Newcastle in 2009 

He played an integral part in Toulon’s rise to the pinnacle of French rugby, but with his 35th birthday fast approaching, his retirement at the end of the season had been widely expected.

Wilkinson won 91 caps for England, and played in a second World Cup final in 2007 when they were beaten 15-6 by South Africa. He scored a total of 1,246 points, second only in the world to the 1,442 of All Black Dan Carter.

He was part of four Six Nations title wins for England with the peak being a Grand Slam under coach Clive Woodward in 2003, the same year England won the World Cup 20-17 in Sydney.

He also won six caps for the British and Irish Lions, but retired from international rugby in December 2011 after the World Cup in New Zealand to concentrate on playing for Toulon.

Wilkinson’s distintive kicking style brought him great success and set a new benchmark for perfectionism in rugby which subsequently has been followed by a new generation of place-kickers. 

The final two games of his career will see him wear the colours of Toulon on Saturday in the European Cup final against Saracens in Cardiff and the French Top 14 final against Castres at the Stade de France a week later. 

Wilkinson enjoyed European Cup success with Toulon last year, when he was player of the year at the club, but he has yet to add a Top 14 title to his list of achievements, having played on the losing side in the last two years. AFP

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