On This Day in 2011 – World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson retires from England duty

Wilkinson’s last-gasp drop goal secured victory in the final seconds of the 2003 World Cup final against Australia.

By Press Association Published: 12 December 2020 - 6.00am

England’s World Cup-winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson retired from international rugby on this day in 2011.

Wilkinson will always be remembered for his drop goal which secured victory in the final seconds of the 2003 World Cup final against Australia.

Just 17 seconds from the end of extra time, he kicked a drop goal which broke Australian hearts in Sydney and handed England their first Rugby World Cup trophy.

Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning drop goal to clinch the Rugby World Cup for England
Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning drop goal to clinch the Rugby World Cup for England (David Davies/PA)

The Surrey-born player also won 91 England caps, plus six for the British and Irish Lions, scoring 1,246 Test points including a record 36 drop goals and boasts the most points accumulated by a player at World Cups with 277.

The then 32-year-old had played in four World Cups when he made a lucrative move to French club Toulon, calling time on his international career.

He suffered a number of injuries during his post-2003 career including shoulder trouble, knee ligament damage, a lacerated kidney and a hernia, but kept bouncing back.

Wilkinson had made his international debut as an 18-year-old, before winning the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Six Nations Championships, leading up to the World Cup in Australia.

Writing on his personal website at the time in 2011, Wilkinson said: “I would like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement from international rugby.

“I never ever believed that I would be able to give up on this dream which has driven me to live, breathe, love and embrace the game of rugby from the earliest days that I can remember.”
- Jonny Wilkinson

“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.

“`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 fulfilment.

“But by now I know myself well enough to know that I will never truly be satisfied!

“I never ever believed that I would be able to give up on this dream which has driven me to live, breathe, love and embrace the game of rugby from the earliest days that I can remember.

“I certainly have no intention of letting this decision change the way that I approach my training and preparation for games. In fact, early indication shows me that I’m actually getting more intense about it.”

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