Toulon - England World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson has announced on Monday that he will
retire as a player 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,
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
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.
Toulon coach Bernard Laporte said that Wilkinson would, however, remain at the club next season in a coaching capacity.
said that he wanted to be part of our coaching staff because he did not
want to finish off too abrubtly. It's all the better for him and for us
because he can help us a lot. He will advise the players on their
technical abilities, handling and kicking," he said
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.
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
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.
starting line up for the 2003 World Cup final only Wilkinson and Mike
Tindall remain as players although the latter is player/coach at
Gloucester and is expected to soon announce his retirement.
Balshaw, who came off the bench in extra-time in the final, is still
with Biarritz, newly-relegated from the French top flight.
Former teammates lined up to sing the praises of the man whose boot brought them glory.
World Cup winner Richard Hill told the BBC: "On the pitch there have
been players who have had as big an impact as Jonny, and Jonny would be
the first to admit that the World Cup-winning team was about more than
"But in terms of someone who has engaged and captivated
such a wide diversity of supporters and non-rugby people, he stands
Flanker James Haskell said that Wilkinson had been instrumental in raising the profile of world rugby.
no way you can escape from it; everything he's done for rugby, the
example he's set, the fact that he's kept his feet on the ground through
everything," he said.
"He was as big as David Beckham. He put
rugby on the map, he won a World Cup for England. He's such an
incredibly humble guy and so professional."
Wilkinson has not yet
said what he planned to do once his playing career is over, but he has
given every indication that he could head into coaching.
is developing," Wilkinson said in February. "I now spend most of the
week in training, helping my team-mates approach the game differently.
I've accepted that for a long time, but that doesn't change the fact
that, deep down, I cannot stop competing."