Rugby: Lancaster to learn off Wilkinson

England head coach Stuart Lancaster hopes he can tap into Jonny Wilkinson's "vast knowledge" of international rugby after the celebrated fly-half announced his Test match retirement.

Rugby News: Jonny Wilkinson

Wilkinson has called time on an international career that harvested 91 England caps, six British and Irish Lions Test appearances and a total of 1,246 points.

The 32-year-old also played in four World Cups, including the 2003 campaign Down Under when his drop-goal 17 seconds from the end of extra time broke Australian hearts in Sydney and meant England had conquered planet rugby.

And Lancaster, who was appointed last week as England's interim boss for the RBS 6 Nations Championship that starts in February, led the tributes to Wilkinson.

"He will continue to do great things with Toulon, and I would like to go and see him in France to learn from his vast knowledge and experience of 13 years at the very top of the international game," Lancaster said.

"Jonny has had a fantastic international career which has spanned four World Cups and 91 caps, and he ranks as one of England's greatest ever players.

"He will, of course, be remembered for that drop-goal. 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."

Outside of his prodigious points-scoring ability, Wilkinson's obsessive eye for detail and a relentless work ethic assumed almost legendary status within the sport.

And the the former Newcastle number 10, who will continue playing for wealthy French club Toulon, also repeatedly showed a never-say die attitude during his darkest days.

At one stage of his career post-2003 World Cup, Wilkinson played barely 15 hours' competitive rugby in 18 months as a succession of injuries - including shoulder trouble, knee ligament damage, a lacerated kidney and a hernia - laid him low.

But he kept bouncing back, underlining his status as arguably the most-celebrated England player in rugby history through numerous match-winning displays.

Wilkinson made a lengthy retirement announcement on his official website www.jonnywilkinson.com, and it comes less than a month before Lancaster reveals England's elite player squad for 2012.

"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," Wikinson said.

"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.

"The time has come, however, for me to realise that I have gone as far as I can go with this England team and that the time is right for others to enjoy the same honour and pride that I have felt over the past 15 seasons and beyond."



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