Rugby about lose a modest hero in Jonny Wilkinson

Against his wishes, the spotlight will shine bright on the English fly-half, who will hang up his boots after Toulon plays this weekend.
 Jonny Wilkinson, the Toulon captain, walks off the pitch after playing his final game in the UK after their victory during the Heineken Cup Final between Toulon and Saracens at the Millennium Stadium on May 24, 2014 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. David Rogers/Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson, the Toulon captain, walks off the pitch after playing his final game in the UK after their victory during the Heineken Cup Final between Toulon and Saracens at the Millennium Stadium on May 24, 2014 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. David Rogers/Getty Images

No matter the result of his Toulon side’s final against Castres, fanfare will cling to the retiring Jonny Wilkinson this weekend.

Which he will hate, of course.

Rugby will lose the last of a special breed when the English fly-half hangs up his boots. Masters of sport do not come more modest than Wilkinson.

Read more: Low-key role may help Wilkinson’s transition

When he kicked the goal that defined his career, to win the 2003 World Cup for England, his mother was at the fruit and vegetable counter at her local supermarket. She was too nervous to watch and could not stand all the fuss.

He has conveyed the sense that he would not have minded being there with her, away from the glare. Only he had urgent business to attend to at the time.

Sometimes it feels like he has been treading water for the decade or so since. Yet he was a runner-up at another World Cup and won two European Cups in that time.

Toulon’s victory in last weekend’s European Cup final against Saracens typified his take on being the centre of attention. Much as he loathes it, it can help.

The seminal moment was a Matt Giteau try, which had its root in a clever reverse pass by Wilkinson.

There were seven defenders wanting to take down Wilkinson.

Yet, facing the nastiest defence in the competition, he knew exactly where the relevant space was.

All eyes were on him. But his eyes were exclusively on the prize. And he won.

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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