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Catt hails Wilkinson legacy

Mike Catt insists Jonny Wilkinson has set the standard to which future generations of England fly-halves will always aspire.

Wilkinson announced his retirement from Test rugby on Monday, leaving a legacy in the number 10 jersey that is unlikely to be bettered. The 32-year-old is England's most capped fly-half with 91 appearances and second most capped player in any position, leading points scorer with 1,179 and kicked the match-winning drop goal at the 2003 World Cup final.

It is a proud roll of honour that his former international team-mate Catt believes will inspire Wilkinson's successors, and he said: "Jonny has set a series of records that all players will want to surpass. People will want to beat his scoring record or number of caps. He now has some special milestones and will be spoken about for a very long time."

He added: "There are guys around who will try to reach the level that Jonny got to. Toby Flood will take on the mantle, with Owen Farrell and Charlie Hodgson beneath him."

Wilkinson's numerous records - which include being the highest points scorer for the Lions and in World Cup history - were established despite a six-year period blighted by injury.

The post-2003 era was marked by a succession of long-term spells in the treatment room that at times cast doubt over his future. Catt believes the injuries were the inevitable consequence of the courage that identified Wilkinson as the hardest tackling fly-half the game has seen.

"Jonny played 91 times for England, but just think how many matches he would have played if he wasn't injured," said the London Irish assistant coach.

"Technically he was very good in defence, but at Test level when you've got the size of those guys running at you and when you've been tackling so hard for so long, your body will break down at some point down the line.

"His timing and strength meant he was able to put in some amazing hits. Jonny's an amazing guy to come through all those injuries yet still play the way he does. It's phenomenal and mentally he's very strong.

"He'll be sorely missed by England and the fans. He can look back on his England career and be very proud of what he achieved."


From Belfast Telegraph