No regrets for Wilkinson, the coach

Posted by Sonja in Jul 22,2014 with No Comments

Looking back on his final match as a player, Toulon coach Jonny Wilkinson admits that the end of his career ‘went perfectly’.

Settling into retirement as part of Toulon’s coaching staff, Wilkinson added that had things not gone to plan in the Heineken Cup and Top 14 Finals that he’s not sure how he might have coped.

“I don’t know… that’s why I’m very happy,” Wilkinson told Rugbyrama.

“The end of the season went perfectly. Everything is finished. If I’d had a kick in the final and I’d missed, I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to live with it. I think it would have been very complicated.

“At the end of it, I was able to breathe a lot easier and turn attention to something else.

“Of course there are things that I will miss. But it was a good decision to stop. Until then, I continued because I wasn’t sure of my decision. But I finished with the double and it was an opportunity to say thank you and goodbye.”

Asked if he was a different man, Wilkinson stated that his focus had dramatically changed and that he was slowly adapting his daily routine.

“Yes, I think I am. I see the world in a slightly different way. Of course I must get used to certain things – not getting up in the morning, going straight to training for two hours alone,” added Wilkinson.

“It was an enormously useful therapy for me to spend two hours just kicking a ball. It was a way to teach me things, to solve problems in my life. Now what motivates and inspires me is to help other players.”

Source: Planet Rugby

Share on Facebook


Is this house a perfect ten? Jonny Wilkinson puts the luxury home he says ‘saved his career’ on the market

Posted by Sonja in Jun 28,2014 with No Comments

Set in the sprawling plains of English countryside, this is the retreat that former England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson claims saved his career.

The 19th century mansion in Northumberland is shrouded in five acres of idyllic fields.

And the pool, gym and sauna aren’t half bad either.

Now taking up a coaching role with French club Toulon, the fly half is putting his seven-bedroom home on the market.

Jonny, who recently retired from the game, said being able to build his own gym and concentrate on his fitness helped save his career.

He said: ‘When I went through my injury period between 2004 and 2007, I just couldn’t stay fit and I was struggling.

‘It was then I decided to extend the property to include space for a gym and a swimming pool.

‘It kind of saved my career. My whole life was about doing rehab and gym work to try and stay fit and get back into my job. It became a bit of a retreat almost.

‘I could do what I had to do, but still have all the peace and quiet that comes with the house.’
Potential buyers can look forward to dips in the custom-built pool, which is in a separate outhouse with a sauna and, upstairs, three spare bedrooms.

The main house has five reception rooms, a breakfasting kitchen, four double bedrooms and three bathrooms.

With one and a half acres of formal gardens, the new owner will also have three and a half acres of paddocks to enjoy.

And, of course, they will no doubt be lured by the 16 square-foot gym and adjacent weights room, where Jonny honed his stellar career.

Jonny added: ‘The views go on forever. It’s that kind of thing that I’m going to miss. It’s that beautiful and that much of a privilege to live here.

‘But at the same time, it’s one of those things when suddenly your life takes shape in front of you and you have to move on.

‘The house is very special to me as it’s where I spent the mainstay of my rugby career.’

Rowan Tree Grange, Northumberland, is for sale through Foster Madison at a guide price of £1.5m.The house dates from the late 1800s and has been updated throughout.

Source: Daily Mail

Share on Facebook


Steve Black: I used to say Jonny would reach his peak at 33 or 34 . . . I was wrong – it came at 35!

Posted by Sonja in Jun 23,2014 with No Comments

He has built a considerable reputation working with rugby’s golden boy Jonny Wilkinson, he of the angelic face and ferocious work ethic.

Wilkinson is very much Mr Clean, a man who can make Cliff Richard appear risque, yet Steve Black’s latest proteges are greatly different.

Joey Barton and Danny Cipriani are, by reputation, two of sport’s bad boys who have turned to Blackie to help them regain lost ground.

One of Steve’s friends, upon hearing of his work with Barton and Cipriani, phoned him up to ask: “Hey, have you opened a school for wayward boys?”

The big Geordie gives out a throaty laugh at the very thought. It appeals to his sense of humour.

However those liaisons are now deep-rooted and appear to be working with both giving fulsome praise to a man they approached for one-on-ones.

Cipriani is rehabilitated and has been back on tour with England in New Zealand having been internationally exiled since 2008, while Barton has just won promotion on to the Premier League stage with QPR.

Such is the impact Black has made at Loftus Road that manager Harry Redknapp has taken him on to his backroom staff for the forthcoming season.

It is, though, his unbreakable bond with Jonny Wilkinson that defines the diverse career of Black and with which he will always be associated.

Both have been back on Tyneside in the last week working together as they first did when, aged 17, a fresh-faced Wilkinson arrived at Newcastle Falcons straight from school.

It began a relationship which culminated recently in the finest No 10 of all time retiring at 35 having just skippered Toulon to the French championship, Super 14 Play-Off victory, and the Heineken Cup (Europe’s championship) for the second successive year.

Steve’s family home has always been here, of course, but Wilko has also kept his Geordie roots – he is only about to sell his house now five years after going to Toulon, while his parents and grandparents live in the rolling Northumberland countryside, as does brother Mark who runs Jonny’s clothing company.

Blackie remembers with affection the early days of Wilkinson at the Falcons, who were bursting with rugby superstars bought by the barrowload upon the advent of professional rugby.

“I was taken to Kingston Park by Sir John Hall,” Steve told me. “I had been working with Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United and I was more than happy to join the staff at the Falcons.

“Steve Bates was on our coaching panel and he brought Jonny to the area – Steve had been his teacher at school. I realised straight away we had a future star, not just because of his unique talent but his dedication to work.

“I remember sitting in the bootroom one day having a cup of coffee with Alan Irvine – he has just got the manager’s job at West Bromwich but was a Newcastle coach at the time.

“Looking out of the window Alan asked me: ‘What’s he done?’ Outside was a kid on his own with a sack of balls kicking them down the field, going after them, and kicking them back. It was Jonny Wilkinson.

“Alan thought it was a punishment. He was on jankers for some misdemeanour. ‘No,’ I said, ‘that’s a young land called Jonny Wilkinson just doing his thing. Remember the name. He’s going to be special’.

“We had a walk round the ground etc and an hour-and-a-half later when we came back Jonny was still there practising. ‘That’s astonishing,’ maintained Irvine shaking his head.”

On another occasion Wilkinson’s obsessive dedication to improvement amazed even Rob Andrew, his Falcons boss and an outstanding England fly-half himself.

“I used to work players when they were knackered with sweat dripping off them by putting on a session with a football not a rugby ball,” recalled Black. “I would ask them to kick the ball left foot then right against a brick wall.

“However with the bounce on the ground that was too easy for Jonny so I made him do it by volleying the ball which never touched terra firma. ‘You’ve got to come and see it sometime Rob,’ I said. ‘It’s eerie’.

“A few days later Rob wandered in. I asked him how many times he thought Wilkinson could volley the ball left foot and right without it hitting the floor. The idea was not just about a player’s touch but his concentration.

“Rob said maybe around 15. Jonny could knock off nearer 500. Honestly.”

Even when Wilkinson quit Newcastle to play in France, Blackie would go over regularly to do session work with him.

“I used to say years ago that Jonny would reach his peak at 33 or 34,” maintained Black. “People would look at me as though I was crazy. Well I was wrong. His best season came at 35!”

Wilko endeared himself to the French public by the way he embraced Gallic life.

“He speaks fluent French and as captain did all his Press conferences in French,” said Blackie. “He gave him team talks in both French and English because of the non-French players in the squad.

“This man has become as big a legend over there as he is here. He’s won the French Sports Personality of the Year, as he did with the BBC in this country, has been European and World Player of the Year, and has in the last two years skippered Toulon to successive European championships.

“Jonny recently gave a speech in Paris where he shared the stage with two Nobel Prize winners. That’s his stature over there.

“In the last week we went to Newcastle University business school and in walked this fella who spotted Wilkinson and, wreathed in smiles, began jabbering away with him in French. It turned out the guy was from Toulon.”

Blackie was, as he should have been, sitting in the Paris crowd, chest pumped out with pride, to watch Wilkinson undertake his last competitive game of rugby in the Super 14 play-offs. Steve had missed Cardiff and the Heineken Cup finale against Saracens the previous week because such is his own success that he was at Wembley with QPR tasting further triumph.

The man who kicked England to World Cup immortality isn’t severing his links with Toulon upon retirement.

“Jonny has agreed to become a consultant who will do some skill work with the squad,” Blackie told me.

“And we will, of course, continue our business association. Jonny is family now.”

Source: Chronicle

Share on Facebook


Fineside

Posted by Sonja in Jun 16,2014 with No Comments

The boss @JonnyWilkinson is on the shop floor! Any orders between now & 18/6 may get a little something extra ‪

Share on Facebook


Jonny Wilkinson awarded honourary citizenship of Toulon after guiding French side to double in final season

Posted by Sonja in Jun 02,2014 with No Comments

Jonny Wilkinson was awarded honourary citizenship of Toulon by the French city’s mayor on Sunday as the curtain came down on the rugby legend’s glittering career.

Wilkinson, who turned 35 last month, helped guide Toulon to a Top 14 and Heineken Cup double as the mega-rich club defeated Saracens and Castres in the final two games of his career.

Toulon’s players arrived in the city’s port by boat as thousands of fans gathered to greet their heroes, who delivered the club’s first French league title since 1992 just a week after being crowned kings of Europe for a second successive season.

Wilkinson was then awarded his citizenship by mayor Hubert Falco before he gave an acceptance speech in perfect French.

On Monday he tweeted: ‘A amazing honour to have been part of this Toulon squad 4 the last 5 years, to have seen what I have seen + to have played with such legends.

‘I am 1 of the luckiest people alive today. I had a 17 season career and have been given way more than I will ever be able pay back.Thank you.’

Wilkinson joined Toulon in 2009 after spending the first 12 years of his career in the Premiership with Newcastle Falcons.

He amassed 91 England caps at fly half between 1998 and 2011, competing at four World Cups and memorably guiding England to their only ever Webb Ellis Trophy back in 2003.

When the whistle blew against on Saturday fans from both Toulon and Castres stood and sang God Save the Queen in tribute to Wilkinson.

‘This is what I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren,’ said team-mate and France international Mathieu Bastareaud, ‘that I’ve played a with a great man

Source: Daily Mail

Share on Facebook


Tribute to Jonny Wilkinson

Posted by Sonja in Jun 02,2014 with No Comments

Share on Facebook


Jonny Wilkinson the perfectionist engineers precisely the right ending

Posted by Sonja in Jun 01,2014 with No Comments

When the whistle went, Jonny Wilkinson was, for a brief moment, all alone. He was covering at full-back when the ball went into touch for the final time. He raised one hand in the air in celebration. And then he was swamped, buried beneath the bodies of his jubilant teammates. He scored 15 of Toulon’s points in their 18-10 victory over Castres. Three of them came from a drop goal, the rest were penalties, kicked from that familiar old pose, hands pressed together as if resting in prayer on the back of a pew, backside out, knees bent. It will never be seen again. He finishes as a champion of France, and of Europe, a fitting end to a fantastic career.

It was then that something really remarkable happened. God Save the Queen started to play over the public address system in the Stade de France.

Wilkinson said after Toulon won the Heineken Cup last Saturday that he felt he had been “oversupported”, and “given way too much respect”, comments he repeated when talking to the French press this week. And that was before the team had unveiled their special match-day jerseys, with “Merci Jonny” stitched into the collars. Before, a group of fans had announced that they intend to erect a statue of him to outside the Stade Félix Mayol. Before, tens of thousands of Frenchmen and women stood and sang the English national anthem in tribute to him.

Wilkinson has never sought such acclaim; in fact he has shied away from it.

At times, as in the 2003 World Cup, when he took to walking around in dark glasses with his cap pulled down and his collar tugged up, it was altogether too much for him to take. Fame, thanks and glory have never seemed to motivate him; rather, he has been driven by the pursuit of victory, the esteem of his team-mates and, more than anything else, his own desire to improve. He has been his own harshest critic.

Wilkinson has found it hard enough to deal with his own expectations of himself, little wonder he is reluctant to confront everyone else’s. This is a man, after all, who says that he likes to think that he is tracked by a camera, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that each night he watches back the imaginary footage and asks himself whether he is proud of what he sees in it. Even he will struggle to quibble with this day’s work.

They say genius lies in the infinite capacity for taking pains and, if that is so, then Wilkinson is one of the very few sportsmen who deserves the label that we have debased by applying so freely to so many. He ran through his repertoire a final time, showing off the skills he has been honing all his adult life. There was that fine flat pass to Mathieu Bastareaud, thrown with a flick of the wrists, so quick it cannot have filled more than a few frames of film, and a high, hanging loop to the same player a little later on, over the head of a defender. In between, there was a running jump to take a high ball, a flying tackle, as he shot out of the line to cut down Antonie Claassen as he broke off the back of a scrum, and a side-step around Rory Kockott, a trick Wilkinson resolved to learn after he saw how well it worked for Jason Robinson.

Also, a couple of cute chips, one just over Castres’ line, and another a little longer, into the open space he had on the right wing. There were the penalty kicks, of course, two from out on the right, one from straight in front, all from a range of around 40 yards, another, further still, from out on the touchline. And the drop, delivered from Castres’ 22 and struck sweet and true.

Wilkinson has said that his obsession with practising these things made his life hell. His perfectionism pushed him into spending four hours each day alone doing nothing but practising his goal-kicking, he did such a volume of work that he “wore through both sides of my groin, wrecked my back and tore muscles up and down my legs”. It became a disease. In 2005 and 2006, when his injury problems were at their worst, Wilkinson grew so infuriated with his imperfections that he started to punish himself physically for his mistakes. He would stamp on his left foot when he made a wayward kick, bite his hand till he drew blood when he fumbled a pass.

So Wilkinson has had to learn to live with himself, to forgive himself.

Living in the south of France, with the sun on his back, has helped. His insatiable curiosity – Clive Woodward once described him as “a sponge for new information” – has led him to find solace and wisdom in unusual places.

He has adopted Kaizen, a Japanese corporate philosophy that makes the relentless pursuit of perfection possible by breaking it down into incremental improvements. That allowed him to set himself limits he had lacked before. “My target for tomorrow,” he wrote recently, “is just to be better than I was today.” This Sunday, 15 years, eight months, and 10 days after he made his debut for Newcastle, he can finally rest easy.

Source: Guardian

Share on Facebook


Jonny Wilkinson bows out in style as Toulon win Top 14 Final

Posted by Sonja in May 31,2014 with No Comments

Toulon gave Jonny Wilkinson the perfect send off by beating Castres 18-10 in the Top 14 Final at the Stade de France.

Wilkinson, in his final match as a professional, was the star of the show as Toulon claimed their first domestic championship title since 1992 and in doing so became the first French team since Toulouse in 1996 to win the Heineken Cup and the Bouclier de Brennus in the same season.

In a rematch of last year’s final, Wilkinson kicked 15 of his team’s points while full-back Delon Armitage added a late long-range penalty to seal a deserved win in a no-frills display.

It was hardly a classic encounter, but there will be no complaints from the faithful back at Stade Felix Mayol, who turned out in their thousands to watch their team make history.

Toulon led 12-10 at the interval thanks to three Wilkinson penalties and a drop goal in reply to Max Evans’ try for Castres.

Wilkinson opened the scoring from the kicking tee after Yannick Caballero was penalised for interfering with Toulon scrum-half Sebastien Tillous Borde when RCT were camped on the Castres line.

But Castres struck straight back with the game’s first try via Scotland wing Evans.

The TMO required a long time to decide whether Rory Kockott had knocked on as he and Delon Armitage battled in the air but to collect Evans’ kick ahead after he had broken clear deep inside his own half.

It was a close call but it controversially went in favour of the defending champions, who took the lead against the run of play.

Once Armitage and Kockott had been pulled apart the Castres scrum-half added the easy conversion.

Wilkinson narrowed the gap to a single point after the Castres scrum coughed up a penalty but Kockott replied when Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe was pinged for not using the gate.

Trademark drop goal

The Toulon scrum won another penalty which Wilkinson duly knocked over before the former England fly-half put his side back in front with a trademark drop-goal.

Kockott missed two long-range efforts before the break to leave Toulon ahead by two as the teams swapped ends.

Wilkinson extended the lead with a fantastic kick from out wide after Rodrigo Capo Ortega pulled down a maul on 53 minutes before Armitage sent one over from 50 metres in the dying minutes.

Toulon did not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to England legend Wilkinson and played God Save the Queen over the tannoy after the final whistle.

Source: Sky Sports

Share on Facebook


Champions!!!

Posted by Sonja in May 31,2014 with No Comments

Share on Facebook


Preparation the key for Wilkinson

Posted by Sonja in May 30,2014 with No Comments

Toulon captain Jonny Wilkinson will take to the field in the Top 14 final against Castres on Saturday for the final match of his professional career, but he insists he’s had lots of practice for this moment.

The former England fly-half, who famously kicked the last-gasp winning drop goal against Australia to hand his country their only World Cup victory in 2003, says he’s always played every rugby match as if it was his last.

So for that moment to finally arrive, Wilkinson says it all feels normal.

“It’s a relatively simple mindset and everything because it’s been the same throughout my career because I’ve always only ever worried about and concerned myself with the game that’s coming,” he told AFP.

“Whilst you’re still playing, it’s only the next game (that counts) so immediately after the Heineken Cup final we all recognised that we’ll all be judged on this next one.

“For me personally coming to the end of a career, it’s emotional but it doesn’t change anything.

“I’ve deliberately kept it that way, kept it simple and enjoyed the fact that the words of saying ‘you play every game like it’s your last’ will be true this time.”

Fresh from a second successive European Cup triumph following last weekend’s 23-6 win over Saracens in the Cardiff final, Wilkinson admits he is unsure of how he will feel once the curtain does come down on his illustrious career, in a match which will be screened live on BT Sport.

“It’s a difficult one… there’s a certain degree of stress that comes with (finals) and you start to look towards the end of it and saying ‘god it’s going to be nice to have a little break when it’s done’.

“But that tends to be in the context of knowing that in early July you’re going to be back in there and doing it all again.

“Your holidays only feel so good because you know you’re getting away from something you have to come back to.

“So that’s the unknown for me, that’s the difficult bit: not really knowing if I’m looking forward to it.”

While Wilkinson has mixed emotions, for his team-mate and compatriot Steffon Armitage, the new European player of the year, it is an exhilarating moment.

“For me personally as an Englishmen, to play alongside Jonny Wilkinson — in 2003 I was young enough that I hadn’t even started my professional career yet.

“I watched him land that drop goal in the final and to be here now with him, it’s a thing that even sometimes now I pinch myself to see if it’s true that I’m really with him.

“Jonny’s a hero of mine, he’s a legend and he will stay like that and finish like that, and we want it to finish well for him.”

Even Toulon head coach Bernard Laporte, the former France coach, admits he feels privileged to have coached Wilkinson.

“For eight years when we spoke about Jonny Wilkinson it was always with fear,” he said.

“Talking about him day and night and finding him with the England team, the thing I prefer now is that he climbs into the same bus as me.

“Yes, it was an honour to train him because, first of all, the night of the semi-final we (France) lost against them (England) in 2007 (at the World Cup), if you’d said ‘one day you’ll coach Jonny Wilkinson’ I’d have said ‘no, I’m done, I doubt it’.

“So it’s a privilege. The reason I came back into rugby was because of guys like that.

“It’s clear, to say you’ll train Jonny Wilkinson or Bakkies Botha, you’ll train guys that for eight years you’ve battled against, who were targets — and when I say targets I mean players you spoke about a lot because they were the best players in the other team.

“It’s obvious for me it’s been a great honour but most of all for the guys who’ve played alongside him because nothing replaces playing.”

Sport BT

Share on Facebook