Jonny Wilkinson has announced he will retire at the end of the season, bringing down the curtain on a glittering career.
The fly-half, most famous for winning the 2003 World Cup for England with a dramatic drop goal against Australia, made the announcement on the website of his club, Toulon.
The 34-year-old, who will turn 35 the day after Toulon’s Heineken Cup final against Saracens on Saturday, has long been exp
ected to call time on his playing days.
Former Newcastle Falcon Wilkinson could still add two more trophies to his collection with a Top 14 final against Castres to follow this weekend’s European showpiece.
“I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby,” 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.
“This, 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.
“I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I will never forget.”
Wilkinson retires as one of just five men to score 1,000 points in international rugby, with his 1,246 second only to New Zealand’s Dan Carter.
Carter stated earlier this year that Wilkinson should go down as one the best players of all time.
“If I was thinking about the best rugby players of all time he would be up there,” Carter said.
“He’s the ultimate professional, probably works harder than any other player in the world and he deserves all the accolades, rewards and success he’s had throughout his career.”
Wilkinson made his debut for Newcastle in 1997 and stayed with them until 2009, winning the Premiership title in 1998 and the Tetley’s Bitter Cup in 2001.
He was sidelined with injury – a recurring theme throughout his career – when the Falcons won its successor, the Powergen Cup, in 2004.
It was during his days with the Falcons that he came to the attention of then England coach Sir Clive Woodward.
Wilkinson made his debut as an 18-year-old and, after a chastening experience on the 1998 ‘Tour of Hell’ to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa he won the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Six Nations, those successes leading to Wilkinson’s signature moment at the 2003 World Cup.
His metronomic boot kicked England to the final and then, against hosts Australia, he landed the most valuable three points of his life with a minute of extra time left, earning his country a 20-17 victory.
He retired from international rugby with 91 caps in December 2011, by which point he was already making a new career for himself in France.
Well-known as a perfectionist, Wilkinson took his distinctive kicking style to Toulon in 2009 and immediately became the fulcrum of their side.
He won the Heineken Cup last season after kicking all of his team’s 24 points to beat Saracens in the semi-final.
A similar feat against the same opponents this weekend would see Wilkinson secure back-to-back victories in the competition.