Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Stopping will be hard for Wilkinson

Jonny Wilkinson cannot wait to return to Twickenham with Toulon
Jonny Wilkinson cannot wait to return to Twickenham with Toulon

Jonny Wilkinson was thrilled to boot Toulon into the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup and admits it is such successes that have kept him in the game.

The former England fly-half slotted six penalties and a late drop-goal as the French giants shattered Leicester Tigers' European dreams. Wilkinson had been considering hanging up his boots at the end of the season but he penned a one-year extension earlier this month for victories like this.

He said after the 21-15 success: "It's a great victory for the club. It was a big occasion and this is a first for us. That is why is signed a new contract, for days like this. The joy and desire to play with this team, the energy and togetherness we feel is what has kept me going."

He continued: "The atmosphere was a little bit bigger than normal but we deal with similar every week. It's one of the reasons that makes it so difficult to start thinking about stopping playing.

"It was a phenomenally difficult game and it is no wonder Leicester Tigers are always at the top of the Premiership and reaching quarters, semis and finals of the Heineken Cup."

Wilkinson and Toulon now return to domestic action before facing Saracens in the European semi-finals at Twickenham on April 28. The World Cup winner admits Saracens present a formidable challenge but he is relishing his return to HQ.

He added: "We will learn a lot from that and hopefully we can go on and use that knowledge in the semi-final against Saracens. It will be great to be back at Twickenham but it's also the occasion that counts. We know it's a hell of an ask but we have given ourselves a chance and must continue to work hard."

Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill admitted the defeat was hard to swallow but he had few complaints and paid tribute to his side's display.

He said: "We have no complaints over the result and no complaints with the performance. It was outstanding from both sides. It was a good contest and we pushed them all the way. We could easily have won, the effort was phenomenal, we never gave up and we were right in it until the end. But Toulon are a very good team and they managed to sneak it."

Tom Croft limped off in the first half of the defeat with a back spasm and Cockerill dismissed any fears. But he confirmed Marcus Ayerza suffered a suspected broken collarbone and has raised the incident to the citing commissioner.

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