Wilkinson: Why I quit England
December 24, 2011
Jonny Wilkinson © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson has revealed that he was considering quitting international rugby for two years before finally ending his England career.
The World Cup winning fly-half admits the frustration of his inconsistent form for England almost drove him to quit the international arena at just 30. And when he failed to lift his form to his high standards at this year's World Cup, he knew it was time to call time on his international career.
Wilkinson finally announced his retirement this month after winning 91 caps and scoring 1179 points for England.
"After the World Cup I wanted to make things better and make things right but I realised that knee-jerk reaction (to carry on) had been lasting about two years," he told the Daily Mail. "I was thinking about my future in terms of righting wrongs for myself and the team. That feeling had been going on for a long time and was affecting me in quite a profound way.
"There was one period, coming off the back of the Australia tour last year, when I had questions about coming back into the England set-up again. I wondered if that was the right time (to quit), but the way I was going at Toulon, there was no way I was ready to let go. I kept thinking, 'Next game it will all come good, next game it will all be amazing'."
Wilkinson struggled to produce his best form during the latter stages of his England career and was increasingly frustrated with his failure to replicate his performances for Toulon on the international stage. And the fly-half went as far as to suggest the set-up at the French club was more conducive to playing his best rugby than within the England squad.
"With the right conditions and set-up at Toulon I knew I could get the best out of myself," he said. "I waited a long time for those conditions with England but it just didn't happen.
"It's difficult to pinpoint what the problem was, but it just wasn't right. I was unable to rediscover the environment that I thought could bring the best out of me. I was trying everything to turn it around. I would go back to Toulon and it felt like it all just happened for me. Everything there made sense.
"With England it just didn't happen and I'm not pointing the finger at anyone, but that was the situation. In the Six Nations I was coming off the bench so I was seeing what Toby Flood could do for the team -- he brought out the best in those around him and had a real connection with them. Whatever I felt capable of doing on the pitch it didn't matter because it just didn't happen."
Wilkinson leaves the international scene with a number of regrets, including England's disastrous World Cup campaign in New Zealand and anti-climatic ending to his time in an England shirt.
"I can try to lie and say it doesn't matter but it does matter," he said. "I always wanted to go out on a high, but it can't matter too much because it's not all about celebrating a player's career.
"Lewis Moody is another guy in the same position -- he is someone else who has given everything to the cause. You can't choose the outcome, all you can do is choose how much you put into it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games