Wilko eyes one last hurrah
Jonny Wilkinson has booked the biggest possible event to play his final professional game in the UK with a second successive European Cup Final.
Jonny Wilkinson has booked the biggest possible event to play his final professional game in the UK with a second successive European Cup Final in Cardiff.
The Toulon skipper scored 21 of his side's points in their 24-16 semifinal victory over Munster in Marseille to ensure a showdown with English Premiership leaders Saracens at the Millennium Stadium.
The 19th European Cup final will come the day before the former England World Cup winner, who is due to retire at the end of the season, is due to celebrate his 35th birthday. If Toulon make it two wins in a row he will join Leicester Tigers' Martin Johnson and Leinster's Leo Cullen as the only men who have led teams to back-to-back titles.
But before thinking about successive triumphs, Wilkinson is fully aware of the challenge that faces his side when they tackle Saracens. The English club may have gone down 24-12 in their meeting at Twickenham last season, but their record 46-6 hammering of Clermont Auvergne in the opening semifinal of the weekend has made everyone in France sit up and take note.
"We've heard nothing but good stuff about Saracens. They are top of the Premiership and are consistent week in, week out," said Wilkinson.
"To beat Clermont Auvergne with a scoreline like that is incredible - it is normally the other way round with them. We have an enormous amount of respect for them."
Wilkinson was also full of admiration for the effort put in by Munster in the sunshine in Marseille. Having been nine points ahead at half-time, Toulon then saw their lead cut to two points when Ian Keatley converted Simon Zebo's try.
"It was a hell of a game and we were in danger everywhere on the field. A five point lead was never going to be enough and even eight was tight - Munster were relentless and kept going at us," added Wilkinson.
"They had so many tricks up their sleeves. We really had to be switched and I could really have done with that drop goal not being charged down. It was tight, but we were able to rely on each other."