Sir Clive Woodward says Jonny Wilkinson took rugby union to "a whole new level" and believes his international retirement marks the end of an era.
The fly-half, 32, has called time on a career that spanned 14 years, 91 caps and an English record of 1,246 points.
Woodward was England coach when Wilkinson's drop-goal won the World Cup against Australia in 2003.
He told BBC Sport: "Jonny was special and he scared the opposition. Everyone has to pat him on the back."
Wilkinson's record for his country includes six tries, 162 conversions, 239 penalties and a record 36 drop-goals, but it is the one he scored against Australia in Sydney in 2003 that will be the defining moment of his career.
Woodward was a fan not just of the player's exceptional kicking talents, but also the impact he had on the sport around the world.
"The way he defended and attacked, he was a very special player," added Woodward, who handed Wilkinson his England debut in 1998.
"All of us involved in that team [in 2003] just felt very lucky and privileged to have had him around at that time.
"He would have taken the decision to retire very seriously but he will still be playing for Toulon, and he has been playing very well for Toulon.
"I'd just like to say well done to him. He has done so much for not just English rugby but also world rugby on the field, and especially off the field."
After the World Cup success in 2003, Wilkinson's career was beset by injuries, and he did not play again for the national side for almost four years after the Sydney final.
Woodward attributes that to the player's physical style of play and ferocious appetite at the breakdown.
"Every player has injuries and he probably had more than his fair share but that was the way he played the game," said Woodward.
"I remember trying to keep him out of rucks so many times and trying to keep him out of contact but that wasn't him, he wanted to get involved.
"He would smash into rucks and that was because he wanted to be a real team player.
"He has had a long career. He came into the side when he was 18 and this is the end of an era and it is perhaps fitting that we move on from that era now."