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Wilkinson Retires from International Rugby

2003 hero calls time on England career

Posted Dec 15, 2011 by Chris White

Jonny Wilkinson played 91 Tests for England

Having won 91 test caps for England, Jonny Wilkinson has retired from international rugby. The fly half made his debut for his country at the age of 18 and went on to play in four World Cups, with his defining moment proving to be his drop goal with 17 seconds of the 2003 World Cup final against Australia to seal the title for England.

The 32-year old Toulon full back had his career disrupted by numerous injuries, but still went on to become England’s leading points scorer of all time, with 1,179 points. His international record includes six tries, 162 conversions, 239 penalties and 36 drop goals, scoring 277 points in World Cups – 50 more than anyone else.

In a statement on his official website, Wilkinson said, “It fills me with great sadness to have to call it a day with England, but I know I have been blessed in so many ways to have experienced what I have with the England rugby team,” he said. “I never believed that I could be able to give on this dream which has driven me to live, breathe, love and embrace the game of rugby,” he added.

Wilkinson missed huge periods of time on the field between winning the World Cup and going to try and retain the title, playing just 15 hours of competitive rugby, (just over eleven full matches), in eighteen months, but he fought back to fitness and form to travel to the 2007 World Cup, helping England reach the final.

Having rebuilt his career after a move from Newcastle Falcons to Toulon, Wilkinson played his last game for England at this year’s World Cup in New Zealand, with England crashing out at the quarter final stage against France, and Wilkinson said “To say I have played through four World Cups, two Lions tours, 91 international games and a ridiculous number of injuries and other setbacks gives me an incredibly special feeling of fulfilment.”

The focus for Wilkinson is now on his club career, where he will “focus even harder on my goal of being the very best I can be with Toulon Rugby Club and continue to embrace and enjoy wherever that path takes me.”

Coaches and team mates have all paid tribute to the sparkling international career Wilkinson’s had, with new England interim coach for the Six Nations campaign in 2012 Stuart Lancaster saying “Jonny ranks as one of England’s best ever players. He will, of course, be remembered for that drop goal, but he is more than that. He’s a model sportsman, down to earth and hard working who has never stopped trying to be the best.”

England team-mate Mark Cueto said “He was always trying to better himself. He couldn’t have done any more with England so it would have been easy to relax, but the more he achieved, the harder he worked and that’s an unbelievable attitude to have.” Lewis Moody, who captained England at this year’s World Cup, said “I’m humbled to have played alongside him. I’m saddened but his contribution over the years, his work ethic, professionalism and commitment has been immense, in training and in games.”

His coach at the 2003 World Cup, Sir Clive Woodward, has paid possibly the most fitting tribute, saying that Jonny “took rugby union to a whole new level.”

Watch Wilkinson kicking THAT drop goal in the final of the 2003 World Cup:

Has he called time on his international career at the right time? Pay your own tributes to Jonny Wilkinson here, on Twitter @ImagineRugby and on Facebook by clicking here.

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