Wed, Dec 14, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Wilkinson announces Test rugby retirement

AFP, LONDON

Former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson attempts a kick on goal during their 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match against France in Auckland, New Zealand, on Oct. 8.

Photo: AFP

England flyhalf great Jonny Wilkinson retired from international rugby union on Monday.

“I would like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement from international rugby,” Wilkinson said in a statement on his Web site, www.jonnywilkinson.com.

“To do so fills me with great sadness, but I know I have been blessed in so many ways to have experienced what I have with the England rugby team,” England’s record points scorer added.

Wilkinson assured himself of a place in rugby union history with the extra-time drop-goal that saw England, with just seconds remaining, win the 2003 World Cup final against hosts Australia in Sydney.

However, afterward his Test career was blighted by a succession of injuries and at the recent World Cup in New Zealand even his normally reliable goal-kicking, so long a cornerstone of his game, let him down as England, beset by off-field problems, crashed out in the quarter-finals to France.

The 32-year-old Wilkinson bows out from Tests as England’s record points scorer with 1,179 points from 91 Test matches.

He also scored 67 points in six Tests for the British and Irish Lions on tours of Australia (2001) and New Zealand (2005).

However, the former Newcastle stand-off, renowned for his extra training sessions and painstaking preparation, is expected to continue his club career with French side Toulon, where he has been since the northern hemisphere summer of 2009.

Stuart Lancaster, appointed England’s acting head coach following the post World Cup resignation of team manager Martin Johnson (the 2003 World Cup winning captain), paid tribute to Wilkinson.

“Jonny has had a fantastic international career which has spanned four World Cups and 91 caps and ranks as one of England’s greatest ever players,” Lancaster said in a Rugby Football Union (RFU) statement.

“He will of course be remembered for that drop-goal, but he is more than that — a model sportsman, down to earth and hard working, who has never stopped trying to be the best that he can,” he said. “Everyone who has played with, coached and watched Jonny play should feel privileged to have had an involvement with him.”

“Not only has he been a world-class player, but he has inspired thousands to play and watch the game of rugby. He will continue to do great things with Toulon and I would like to go and see him in France to learn from his vast knowledge and experience of 13 years at the very top of the international game,” Lancaster said.

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