JONNY WILKINSON has quit English rugby after agreeing to join ambitious French club Toulon next season.
The 29-year-old brings to an end a 12-year association with the Newcastle Falcons and becomes the latest England international to swap the Premiership for France’s Top 14.
Injury-plagued Wilkinson has not played since dislocating his kneecap at Gloucester back in September, but has put pen-to-paper on a two-year deal which will earn the World Cup-winning fly-half €800,000 a season.
Wilkinson will become Toulon’s token summer signing with big-spending president Mourad Boudjellal plotting a serious bid for the Top 14 title this season under the leadership of former Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre.
Toulon have already added Sale trio Sebastien Bruno, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Rory Lamont to the squad, as well as Wilkinson’s Falcons team-mate Tom May, Munster prop Tim Ryan, Bristol flanker Joe el Abd, Saracens back-row Kris Chesney, Cardiff centre Jamie Robinson and Leinster’s Argentina international Felipe Contepomi.
Wilkinson also joins an influx of England internationals moving to France this summer with Wasps trio Riki Flutey, James Haskell and Tom Palmer, plus Jamie Noon and Iain Balshaw all chancing their arm across the Channel.
Falcons director of rugby Steve Bates said: “Jonny will undoubtedly go down as one of Newcastle’s all-time greats. He has contributed an incredible amount to this club over the past 12 seasons, and been an inspirational figurehead for rugby in the north-east.”