The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.
So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .
Jonny Wilkinson believes that both South Africa and England will make it to the semifinals of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
World Cup legend Wilkinson was at SuperSport on Thursday and Xola Ntshinga was able to sit him down for an interview.
Wilkinson has great respect for what has been achieved by the England team under coach Stuart Lancaster.
“The England team has done a great thing in going back to the foundation of the game. They’ve looked at the values; they looked at the core principles of what makes a good team. They’ve solidified it at the base and now they’re building on it. They’re adding detail on top of detail on top of detail and the players are ready to accept it,” he said.
Jonny Wilkinson ended his career by helping Toulon to the French title with victory over Castres in Paris.
The former England fly-half, 35, kicked all but three of his side’s points in an 18-10 victory in the Top 14 final.
His display included four penalty kicks and a drop goal reminiscent of his winning kick against Australia to win England the World Cup in 2003.
Today is almost Groundhog Day in France as Toulon once again take on Castres in the Top 14 final, but this year there is one crucial difference. Jonny Wilkinson, as the rugby world and his wife is well aware, will hang up his boots on Saturday evening having played the final 80 minutes in his glittering career. Worryingly for Castres, it would be hard to imagine that Wilkinson’s Toulon team-mates will allow him to sign off with an anti-climax.
It’s not just Wilkinson that Toulon will be aiming to win for – the whole team have a score to settle with their opponents. Castres upset the applecart last season by defeating Toulon 19-14 in the final to claim their first league title in 20 years. Having become the first French club to secure back-to-back Heineken Cups last weekend, Toulon are now aiming to secure a league and cup double that will send their already devoted fans into absolute pandemonium.
Jonny Wilkinson said playing alongside ‘inspirational’ former Australian centre Matt Giteau had convinced him now was the right time to retire.
Giteau will find himself back on South African soil in June when he faces the Springboks as part of Nick Mallett’s World XV.
Wilkinson and Giteau – ‘the ultimate professional’ in the eyes of the England great – were both members of the star-studded Toulon side that retained the European Cup with a 23-6 win over Saracens in the European Cup Final.
Comic magnate Mourad Boudjellal’s Toulon retained the Heineken Cup trophy with a comprehensive victory, by seventeen points, over English club Saracens at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff yesterday. The final score was Saracens 6/23 Toulon.
This victory proved that in the modern era of sports it is most often the team who has the biggest pot of gold available to it who will win the trophy as on the same day Toulon’s football equivalent Real Madrid lifted the Champions League trophy just hours later in Lisbon. The final score of 4/1 to Real Madrid may make their victory seem as comprehensive as Toulon’s.
Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson says it would be “amazing” to one day coach his country after announcing he will retire from playing this month.
The 34-year-old will play in the Heineken Cup and Top 14 finals for Toulon, at which point he will join the French club’s coaching staff.
Wilkinson played 91 times for England, famously kicking a winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final.
England’s Rugby World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson announced on Monday that he will retire at the end of the season after Toulon’s Heineken Cup and French Top 14 finals.
“I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby,” the 34-year-old said in a statement on his club’s website.
“I have an enormous number of people to thank for their support from all around the world but especially here in France and in England,” Wilkinson said.
Reigning champions Toulon will have a shot at becoming only the third team in Heineken Cup history to defend their title after they overcame Munster 24-16 in the second semi-final at Stade Velodrome, Marseille.
The only try of the game may have come in the second half from Munster wing Simon Zebo, but Toulon were never behind in a game which saw Jonny Wilkinson end with 21 points and Delon Armitage smash over a 55 metre penalty.
Holders Toulon look set to be able to call on influential flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson and hooker Craig Burden for the European Cup semifinal against Munster.
The pair, out injured for the past two weeks, have reported fit and both turned out for training on Monday.
English rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson celebrated his 100th match in the Top 14 in suitable fashion on Sunday as he kicked all of European champion Toulon’s points as they secured a 15-9 win at relegation-threatened Bayonne.
The 34-year-old landed four penalties and one drop goal to give Toulon only their second away win in eight away matches this campaign and consolidated their place in the top six places for the post-season playoffs – they are five points ahead of seventh placed Toulouse.
French rugby is currently full of news regarding player movements and player contract offers and extentions.
Toulouse has offered South African prop, Schalk Ferreira a 3-Tear extention to his current deal after some outstanding performances by him. Toulon has extended Deon Armitage’s contract for 2 years whilst Maxime Mermoz has signed on till 2017. After some speculation about Jonny Wilkinson’s possible retirement, it appears he might want to continue on at Toulon for another year.
Tommaso Allan, Italian international flyhalf, has also won him a contract extention with Perpignan.
Today is the third and final day of matches in the first round of the pool stage of the Heineken Cup. In what is arguably the pick of the day’s matches Glasgow Warriors travel to France to take on Toulon. These teams currently top the RabboDirect PRO12 and French Top 14 respectively. The game is due to kick off at 16.00 South African Time.
English flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson will seek to add a continental crown to his honours when his Toulon take on French rivals Clermont in the European Cup final on Saturday.
The match at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium might be between two French Top 14 clubs, but on paper it is a truly international clash, with top players from across the globe ready to battle it out for the ultimate honour in northern hemisphere club rugby.
Saracens and Toulon will both have uncharted territory in their sights when they clash in today’s semi-final showdown at Twickenham Stadium – a debut place in a prestigious Heineken Cup final.
When Toulon’s superstars roll into town for this weekend’s Heineken Cup semi-final they will find in their way a Saracens side who are the only English club left in the last four of Europe’s elite club competition.
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says Jonny Wilkinson is in the frame for the Australia tour, but Toulon’s success may hamper his hopes.
Flanker Steffon Armitage’s form justifies a place in head coach Stuart Lancaster’s England squad, according to Toulon team-mate Jonny Wilkinson.