Rugby: England World Cup hero Wilkinson to retire after Heineken Cup final

Toulon's English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson adjusts the ball before kicking a penalty during the French Top 14 rugby union match Aviron Bayonnais vs RC Toulon on February 23, 2014 at the Jean Dauger Stadium in Bayonne, southwestern France. Toulon
Toulon's English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson adjusts the ball before kicking a penalty during the French Top 14 rugby union match Aviron Bayonnais vs RC Toulon on February 23, 2014 at the Jean Dauger Stadium in Bayonne, southwestern France. Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who led England to World Cup victory in 2003, will retire from rugby following Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Saracens, he announced on Monday. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who led England to World Cup victory in 2003, will retire from rugby following Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Saracens, he announced on Monday.

"I would like to take this opportunity to formally announce my retirement from playing rugby," the 34-year-old, who has enjoyed a 17-year senior career, said in a statement on Toulon's website (www.rctoulon.com).

"It goes without saying that I have an enormous number of people to thank for their support from all around the world but especially here in France and in England."

Wilkinson made his England debut in 1998, going on to play 91 Test matches for his country despite suffering a number of serious injuries, helping them to the 2003 World Cup title and runners-up four years later.

He played six Tests for the British and Irish Lions, and is the second-highest test points scorer behind New Zealand's Dan Carter with 1,246.

Having spent over a decade at the Newcastle Falcons, he moved to France in 2009, helping Toulon to their first Heineken Cup title in 2013 and to this season's decider against Saracens on Saturday.

"This, however, is not at all the time to be concentrating on this as I would like to focus all my attention and energy on the team and these final two games of the season," added Wilkinson, who will celebrate his 35th birthday a day after the final.

"I sincerely thank you all for everything you have given me and for making these last 17 years something I will never forget."

His final match will be the Top 14 final against holders Castres in Paris on May 31.