Wilkinson, O’Driscoll retire as champions
Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O’Driscoll ended glittering careers by winning domestic titles in their final games for their clubs on Saturday.
Yet while England great Wilkinson was mobbed by teammates after kicking 15 points in Toulon’s 18-10 win over Castres in the French Top 14 final, Ireland star O’Driscoll’s 186th and last appearance for Irish province Leinster didn’t quite turn out as planned.
The former Ireland captain — the world’s most capped international player — lasted just nine minutes of Leinster’s 34-12 win over Glasgow in the Pro12 final before limping off with a hamstring injury.
It was still another trophy for O’Driscoll, who won a second Six Nations title with Ireland in March and also ended his 15-year professional career with three European Cup winners’ medals on his CV.
Wilkinson’s 17-year career, which peaked in 2003 when he booted the winning drop goal in the 2003 World Cup final, could not have finished any sweeter.
A week after captaining Toulon to a second straight European Cup title, he played a starring role in sealing Toulon’s first French championship success since 1992.
“All I can say is to thank everyone, all the players, the coaches, the fans,” Wilkinson said. “To be honest, it’s been an incredible experience, a pleasure ... I’ve spent half my life in professional rugby, I will take away a lot of good memories.”
Emotions got to Wilkinson a few minutes after the final whistle at the Stade de France as he walked around with his head in his hands, as it sank in that his career is finished. He had already been mobbed by teammates as the stadium speakers blasted out ‘God Save the Queen.’
“This is what I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren, that I’ve played with a great man,” tearful Toulon center Mathieu Bastareaud said about Wilkinson.
Fittingly, Wilkinson’s last game saw him land five kicks from five — four penalties and a drop goal.