Jonny Wilkinson Confirms He Will Retire at End of Season: Reaction and Comment

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

Toulon's captain Jonany Wilkinson prepares to kick the ball during his Heineken European Cup rugby match against Cardiff, in Nice, southeastern France, Satuday, Jan. 11, 2014. The winner of his pool 2 clash will qualify for the H Cup quarter final. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

Jonny Wilkinson, England's hero during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, has announced his retirement from the professional game.

Sky News revealed the 34-year-old's decision to call time on an injury blighted career that was also crammed with success:

Wilkinson spoke after the decision was made public, reported by Mike Dawes of the Daily Mail:

I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby. 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.

[...] I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I will never forget.

Currently representing Toulon after 12 years with the Newcastle Falcons, Wilkinson's career will head toward its end with a bang if the French side triumph in Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Saracens.

Although this isn't his last match, the England legend will look to achieve a second consecutive European trophy win as his memorable tenure comes to a close.

Wilkinson's career with Newcastle saw him capture the 1997-98 Premiership and two Powergen Cups. He quickly became a pivotal player on the international stage with England, where he memorably punted a drop goal in the dying seconds to win the 2003 World Cup against Australia, on the Wallabies' home turf.

The player announced his retirement from international rugby in 2011, after winning a quartet of Six Nations trophies with England. He also represented the British and Irish Lions in six Tests, racking up 67 points, per ESPNScrum.

Wilkinson's kicking technique, which sees him grasp his hands together at a wide angle before launching his effort toward the posts, remains widely recognised across the globe. Indeed, his style can be compared to the instantly recognisable set-piece approach of David Beckham, as once highlighted in Adidas' famous advert.

Despite a run of plaguing injuries—fitness problems that continually threatened Wilkinson's career—he has managed to enjoy a five-year spell in France with Toulon. Heineken Cup victory would be a fitting end to his tenure across the Channel.

Many have taken to Twitter in order to thank a true great of English sport. Charlie Morgan, freelance journalist for MailOnline Sport and others, led the way when describing Wilkinson's quality:

Darren Richman, football writer for the Telegraph, highlighted Wilkinson's brand outside the rugby universe:

Brian Moore, former England international and current BBC Sport pundit, made his feelings toward Wilkinson clear:

Wilkinson ultimately goes down as one of the great English sportsmen. Although his time and output was undoubtedly cut short through consistent injury, his achievements when fully fit ensure many will fondly remember a highly skilled technician whose ability to define matches never ceased.

This is a man who thrust England to their first World Cup win with an iconic moment in the nation's sporting history—writing himself into immortality. His later OBE highlights the impact made, as Wilkinson's career will be positively reminisced for years to come.