The world of rugby has paid tribute to former Newcastle Falcons and England legend Jonny Wilkinson who today announced he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season.
Toulon fly-half Wilkinson, 34, has the Heineken Cup Final against Saracens and the French Top 14 showpiece with Castres to contend with before calling time on a majestic career which saw him twice lift the Powergen Cup with Newcastle, amass more than 1,000 points in international rugby, win the Six Nations on four occasions and most famously kick the extra-time drop-goal that won England the 2003 World Cup as they defeated Australia 20-17 in Sydney.
More recently the 91 times capped dedicated England No.10 played a key role in helping his current side Toulon win the Heineken Cup last season as they edged out Clermont Auvergne in the final at the Aviva Stadium.
Ex-Newcastle favourite Carl Hayman, who is a teammate of Wilkinson on the French Riviera, said: “To be in the game for as long as he has, and to have achieved what he has at the highest level is phenomenal.
“A player like him doesn’t come round often and he is going to be a big loss to the game – we are hoping to send him off in style by winning the Heineken Cup and Top 14 final.”
Meanwhile, England head coach Stuart Lancaster said: “His level of commitment to the team, his selflessness and the determination to get the best out of himself sets him apart.
“For me the impact off the field and how he has prepared are the things that have stood out. He is a role model to many people.
“I didn’t have the privilege of coaching him which was a shame, but his influence on the game has been remarkable.”
Tweets have been flooding in not only from rugby fans across the North East, but from the rugby world including players past and present as well as from clubs worldwide which you can view by clicking here.