Rugby Union

Jonny Wilkinson to retire from rugby this weekend

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This season is fast becoming the end of an era in rugby, as some of the greatest players hang up their boots for good.

But one such player who will leave the field for the last time this weekend, will be a man who would not only wear his heart on his sleeve in his England colours, but brought the Webb Ellis Cup to his country in spectacular fashion.

Jonny Wilkinson will make his final bow in rugby this weekend, when he pulls on the Toulon shirt in their Top 14 final against Castres.

Wilkinson has had his best domestic years in France, over the last few seasons, having won the Heineken Cup in 2013, and then retaining it with a 23-6 win over Saracens last weekend.


Yet, the fly-half has without a doubt spent his career, battling with blood, sweat and tears for his country.

Wilkinson made his debut against Ireland during the 1998 Five Nations tournament, becoming the second youngest player to pull on the England shirt, behind Colin Laird, who was 190 days younger in his first game in 1927.

Yet, during his 91 test matches, he became England’s leading points scorer on 1,246, which also leaves him just behind New Zealand’s Dan Carter for World’s leading points scorers in internationals.

Wilkinson also helped England to four Six Nations titles in his 13-year international career.
But his glory days have been on the biggest stage in rugby union, the World Cup.
In 2003, England were seen as outsiders to win the tournament, with the hosts Australia being clear favourites.

Yet, they prevailed, reaching the final in Sydney with little trouble.

Joined by Australia at the Telstra Stadium, England obviously didn’t get the memo that they were going to just make up the numbers.

The game had been tied at 14-14 after 80 minutes, and despite England going ahead with a penalty in the extra-time, with Australia equalising with their own in the 97th minute.

But nobody remembers those kicks because what happened three minutes later, stunned not only the crowd in Sydney, but also those millions that watched on their televisions.

It was a moment that no-one who watched it, has or will ever forget, and it was a moment that turned Wilkinson from England’s golden boy to a national hero.


Scrum-half Matt Dawson pulled the ball out of a ruck, and spotted Wilkinson waiting to receive.
Upon collecting the ball, he booted it through the posts to earn England the win and the Webb Ellis Cup.

Four years later, a similar feat was almost achieved, with Wilkinson again at the forefront of England’s attack.

Whilst their journey to the final was a little more difficult, having lost to South Africa in the group stage, before narrowly beating Australia in the quarter-finals, thanks again to Wilkinson.

Upon reaching the final, there seemed to be added pressure for the reigning champions to win.
But this team was four years older, with many of the heroes of ’03 had either retired or entering the twilight of their careers.

Wilkinson kicked two penalties at the Stade de France in Paris, making him the only player to score in two World Cup finals.

But it wasn’t enough to defeat an impressive South African side, who went on to win 15-6.

While Wilkinson also travelled on tour with the British and Irish Lions, firstly to Australia in 2001, then to New Zealand in 2005, it has been his England career shown him to be arguably the best fly-half this country has ever seen.

Many have tried to follow in his footsteps, including Danny Cipriani, Toby Flood and Olly Barkley.

Owen Farrell is making waves that could see him have similar success as Wilko, but he will need to produce moments of brilliance, like the drop goal to win the 2003 World Cup, if he is to be worthy of being mentioned in the same breath and class as Wilkinson.


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Topics:
England Rugby
Rugby Union
Jonny Wilkinson

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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