Rugby World Cup Winner, Jonny Wilkinson, has confirmed his retirement from all forms of the game when the season draws to its close.
After the announcement on Monday, Wilkinson said “I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I’ll never forget”.
The current Toulon captain, and former Newcastle, England and Lions fly half has received recognition across the rugby world for his extraordinary professionalism and character. Renowned for his accuracy with the boot and fearless tackling, Wilkinson has risen to become a global name and a legend of the sport we adore. An inspiration for myself, and many I’m sure, the 34 year old has cemented his place in the history of English sport and I’d like to pay tribute to the player and his remarkable achievements.
There are very few players who I personally have so much respect, admiration and fondness for, and I’ll certainly not be alone in that regard. Wilkinson’s obsessiveness with training is something that makes him such a wonderful figure, and his perfectionist style has led so many fellow players to better their game and improve as both sportsmen and individuals.
His distinctive technique failed to go unnoticed in his early years with the Falcons, and was eventually given his debut in 1998, replacing Mike Catt against Ireland at only 18 years old. An understudy to Rob Andrew, Wilkinson soon saw himself become the Falcons first choice fly half and place-kicker, a change from his original position at inside centre. In ’99 Wilkinson passed 100 Test points, something he’d build on dramatically.
A memorable moment of his career came when after a brilliant piece of slick handling by the England forwards and backs alike, Wilkinson made an unexpected chip over a disorganised All Blacks defence to help secure a 31-28 win at Twickenham. Wilkinson chip and score versus New Zealand-2002
This set the standard for the next few years, and after Woodward’s side secured a Grand Slam in the run-up to the World Cup in 2003 the rest was history……and what great history it was. I’ll leave you to re-live the very moment Jonny’s accurate left peg made every Englishman and women poor with emotion. Drop Goal for RWC Glory
After many English legends decided to hang up their boots, the glory years slowly drifted away and Wilkinson paid the price for his defensive commitments, suffering regular injuries. Despite this, having managed to appear for the British and Irish Lions, Wilkinson was once again England’s go to man and seasoned international for the 2007 RWC. After knocking out France, England fell short off retaining the William Webb Ellis trophy against the Springboks, yet Wilkinson once again proved his true class.
What does Wilkinson offer as a player? Intelligence, tactical prowess, clinical kicking, precise handling, attacking threat, defensive solidity and leadership, to name but a few.
It’s hard to put into words every great moment that Wilkinson made or was part of, however his International record speaks for itself.
91 England Caps
6 British & Irish Lions Caps
2 RWC Finals and the only player to score in 2 finals
1 World Cup win and holds the most points at the RWC
1,246 Test points, second highest ever behind Dan Carter
36 Test Drop Goals, more than any other player
4 Six Nations titles (2003 Grand Slam)
His club career stats are also something to be admired.
Over 3,000 points for Newcastle and Toulon
1 Heineken Cup
1 Premiership title
2 Powergen Cup’s
Having also been a runner-up on two occasions in the Top 14 and Amlin Challenge Cup, the stage is now set for Jonny to help Toulon retain the Heineken Cup and lead them to their first Top 14 victory against the mighty Castres, a repeat of last year’s finale.
I for one, sorry Saracens fans, hope that Jonny earns the send off he very much deserves, but it probably doesn’t do him justice.
I would like to thank Jonny for his 17 years on the field, inspiring children across the country to try their hand at, let’s be honest, the world’s most glorious, exhilarating sport and apologies for an article that again, doesn’t do him justice.
Retiring alongside fellow sporting giants Brian O’Driscoll and Ryan Giggs, 2014 will be a memorable year for British sports fans and one that we will look back on with a rye smile.
Here are some more of Jonny’s best and painful moments-