Wilkinson Ends Record Setting 13-Year England Rugby Career

England's fly-half Jonny Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson, England's fly-half, has retired from international rugby union. Photographer: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Jonny Wilkinson, whose drop goal sealed England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup title, retired from the international game after a 13-year career in which he scored more points for his country than any other player.

Fly-half Wilkinson, 32, amassed 1,179 points for England in 91 games and played in four World Cups, appearing in two finals. His drop goal 17 seconds from the end of extra time gave England a 20-17 win over Australia in the title match eight years ago.

Even though his career was disrupted by injuries, Wilkinson set national records for the most conversions (162) and penalty goals (239). He also kicked a world best 36 drop goals for England after making his Test debut in 1998.

“I have gone as far as I can go with this England team,” Wilkinson said on his website yesterday. “The time is right for others to enjoy the same honor and pride that I have felt over the past 15 seasons and beyond.”

Wilkinson, who also played six international matches for the British and Irish Lions, will continue to play for French club Toulon, where he has a contract until 2013.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Wilkinson has suffered 13 different injuries during his career, according to the Rugby Football Union. He didn’t appear for England for more than three years after the 2003 World Cup final as he struggled with a lacerated kidney and shoulder, arm, neck and knee problems.

Four World Cups

Wilkinson recovered to help England reach the 2007 World Cup final, which South Africa won 15-6. He appeared at rugby’s quadrennial championship for the fourth time this year in New Zealand, where England lost in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up France.

“To 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,” Wilkinson added. “But by now I know myself well enough to know that I will never truly be satisfied.”

Wilkinson is second to New Zealand’s Dan Carter on the all-time Test points scoring list with 1,246, having also amassed 67 international points for the Lions.

He scored a record 277 points at World Cups, 50 more than his nearest rival. Only 28 of those points came at the 2011 tournament as Wilkinson missed nearly two-thirds of his penalty goal attempts.

Since the 2011 World Cup finished Oct. 23, Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody have also retired from international rugby, leaving Simon Shaw and Mike Tindall as the only members of England’s 2003 squad still available for selection.

‘Real Role Model’

Clive Woodward, who coached England to the World Cup title, said Wilkinson combined a desire to be the best fly-half in the world with a “fantastic team ethic.”

“He was a real role model,” Woodward told Sky News. “I admired how he went about his business and how much work he did when no-one was around. He took his game to a whole new level.”

England interim head coach Stuart Lancaster said Wilkinson ranked as “one of England’s greatest ever players” who had inspired thousands to play and watch the game.

“He will of course be remembered for that drop goal,” Lancaster said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”

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