Jonny Wilkinson: England World Cup winner to retire

Wilkinson kicks World Cup-winning drop-goal

World Cup-winning former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will retire from rugby at the end of the season.

Wilkinson made 91 appearances for England and kicked the drop-goal that won the 2003 World Cup.

The final two games of the 34-year-old Toulon player's career will be Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Saracens and the French Top 14 final against Castres the following weekend.

"I'd like to focus all my energy on the team and the final two games," 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.

"I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I will never forget."

Wilkinson, who will join the Toulon coaching staff at the end of the season, retires as one of just five men to score 1,000 points in international rugby, with his total of 1,246 second only to New Zealand great Dan Carter.

He made his debut for Newcastle in 1997, winning the Powergen Cup twice before leaving 12 years later.

While playing for the Falcons he came to the attention of Sir Clive Woodward, who handed Wilkinson his England debut aged 18 against Ireland in 1998.

Having won the Six Nations in 2000, 2001 and 2003, his extra-time drop-goal won England the 2003 World Cup as they beat Australia 20-17 in Sydney.

Wilkinson struggled with injuries thereafter, but still played a key role in England reaching the 2007 World Cup final, and was a Six Nations winner again in 2011.

He also represented the British and Irish Lions in Australia in both 2001 and 2005, making six appearances but losing both series.

Wilkinson retired from international rugby in December 2011, by which point he was playing his club rugby for French team Toulon.

He helped the Top 14 side win the Heineken Cup last season, kicking 11 points as Clermont Auvergne were beaten in the final, and was voted European Player of the Year.

England coach Stuart Lancaster says Wilkinson will go down as one of the greatest players to play the sport.

Jonny Wilkinson's Twickenham career highlights

"I've not known anyone more dedicated," he told BBC Sport. "His level of commitment to the team, his selflessness and the determination to get the best out of himself sets him apart.

"For me, the impact off the field and how he has prepared are the things that have stood out. He is a role model to many people.

"I didn't have the privilege of coaching him, which was a shame, but his influence on the game has been remarkable."

Fellow 2003 World Cup winner Richard Hill said: "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 World Cup-winning team was about more than one man.

"But in terms of someone who has engaged and captivated such a wide diversity of supporters and non-rugby people, he stands alone."

All Black fly-half Carter said Wilkinson's retirement would be a huge loss for the game.

"I'm sure if he wanted to keep playing he could," he said.

"The way he has been playing over the last couple of years has been amazing and that is credit to him and the way he has bounced back from setbacks

"I hold him in huge respect and it has been great to watch him play and play against him and I wish him well for the future."

BBC commentator and ex-England hooker Brian Moore tweeted: "What a player; what a man. Good luck in retirement; a stellar career and similarly as a man."

Wasps flanker James Haskell described his former international team-mate as one of the biggest legends that has ever played rugby and an "incredibly humble guy".

"You'd never get that out of him and I think he would shy away and be horrified if I said it, but he is [a legend]," Haskell told BBC Radio 5 live.

"He was as big as David Beckham. He put rugby on the map, he won a World Cup for England."

Top Stories