x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Jonny Wilkinson hangs up his England rugby boots

The 2003 World Cup-winning fly-half retires from international rugby union having won 91 caps for his country.

Jonny Wilkinson's last game for England was in the quarter-final defeat to France at this year's World Cup in New Zealand.
Jonny Wilkinson's last game for England was in the quarter-final defeat to France at this year's World Cup in New Zealand.

England's World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has retired from international rugby union.

Wilkinson, whose drop-goal secured victory against Australia in the final of the 2003 World Cup, won 91 caps for his country as well as six Test appearances for the British & Irish Lions.

The Rugby Football Union confirmed the 32-year old had announced his retirement and, in a statement on his own website, he wrote: "I would like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement from international rugby.

"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."

Wilkinson retires in second on the all-time Test scoring lists with 1,246 points - 1,179 of those for England - placing him just behind New Zealand's Dan Carter.

His record for his country includes six tries, 162 conversions, 239 penalties and a record 36 drop goals.

His statement continued: "To say I have played through four World Cups, two Lions tours, 91 international games and a ridiculous number of injuries and other set backs gives me an incredibly special feeling of fulfilment. But by now I know myself well enough to know that I will never truly be satisfied!

"It goes without saying that I would like to wish Stuart Lancaster, his coaches and the England Squad every bit of success available to them. I would also very much like to extend those wishes to Martin Johnson, Brian Smith, Mike Ford, John Wells, Graham Rowntree and the rest of the England 2011 World cup management team who have been fantastic and deserve people to know that.

"For me now, I will continue to focus ever 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."

Lancaster, who was appointed last week as England's interim head coach for the Six Nations that starts in February, paid a glowing 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.

"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.

"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."

Lewis Moody, who played alongside Wilkinson in the 2003 World Cup-winning team and only announced his own retirement from the sport in October, 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.

"He put everything into what he did. It was incredible to watch him train and perform.

"The fact he missed four years of international rugby but still amassed 97 caps is unimaginable.

"It's a real shame he's decided to retire but what he's given to the sport, and a generation, is immense.

Moody told Sky Sports News he believes the Toulon player could have continued at the top level - but understands why he has made the decision.

He said: "If he puts his mind to it he could keep doing it - and I think he could have given more.

"But for him the decision is right and considering the amount of work he's put in and the number of injuries he's had in his career, he deserves to enjoy a long and restful retirement."

As for England's future without Wilkinson, Moody added: "The next four years will be very interesting.

"We've got a great group of players and talent coming through and with a new coach in place it will be interesting to see how they take it forward."

Former England teammate Ugo Monye hailed Wilkinson as "a total legend, on and off the pitch".

"He's an unbelievable ambassador, he's a guy who I thought was never going to retire," Monye told Sky Sports News. "He's the most professional sportsman I've ever worked with.

"It's the mindset. I went to school with Johnny. The way he trained then as a 16 year old is just how he trains now."

Monye added: "You probably wouldn't' find a prouder Englishman, he absolutely loved playing for his country. For him to hang up his boots and watch from a distance is obviously going to be frustrating.

"The class of 2003 was pretty special, but he's one of the best names up there.

"He's a total legend on and off the pitch, always got time for everyone. He'll be remembered for a lot of good reasons."