End of the road for England legend Wilkinson

ENGLAND’S iconic World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson yesterday announced his retirement from international rugby.

The 32-year-old, arguably England’s greatest ever player, won 91 caps over the course of an injury-plagued career and also represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours.

Wilkinson will forever be remembered as the man who kicked England to glory in Australia eight years ago, but with youngsters such as Toby Flood and Owen Farrell gunning for his place, the Toulon No10 has decided the time is right to bow out.

In a statement, Wilkinson said: “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 second on the all-time Test scoring list 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.

“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 fulfillment,” he added.

“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.”

Tributes to Wilkinson, hailed as the ultimate professional, poured in last night including from England’s interim head coach Stuart Lancaster and former team-mate Lewis Moody, who announced his own retirement from international rugby in October.

“I’m humbled to have played alongside him,” said Moody. “I’m saddened but his contribution over the years, his work ethic and commitment, has been immense. He put everything into what he did. It was incredible to watch him train and perform.”