JONNY Wilkinson described winning the Heineken Cup with Toulon as a bigger achievement than his Rugby World Cup triumph with England ten years ago.
Wilkinson captained Toulon to a staggering 16-15 victory over Clermont Auvergne in Dublin, kicking three penalties and the decisive conversion following Delon Armitage’s try.
“It is right up there,” Wilkinson said.
“In fact, it goes beyond [winning the World Cup] because life is in the now, not in the past. The next thing you reach for, the next goal you set, life just gets better and better if you are in a club as good as this.”
Wilkinson turned down an invitation to tour with the British and Irish Lions because of his commitment to Toulon, with whom he has just signed a new one-year deal having contemplated retirement. The manner of last night’s victory summed up why he had put Toulon first.
“I had a chat with Warren Gatland and said ‘this is me now’ and because of the stage of my career he fully understood,” Wilkinson said. “These games, I don’t know how many tackles we made today and I need to be 100 per cent in there just to survive. We have played quarter-final, semi-final, final and you fight to stick in there to earn every point. That is what makes it feel so good at the end.”
With Toulon facing Toulouse in the Top 14 semi-final next weekend, Wilkinson would not even discuss the prospect of him joining up with the Lions as a late replacement or addition to the squad.
“It is clear-cut in my head. Everything I have got is going towards these guys,” he said.
“It is difficult to think about anything other than we could have two more games left.”