A week after delivering back-to-back Heineken Cup titles for Toulon in his last game on British soil, rugby union legend Jonny Wilkinson will officially retire from the sport after his sides Top 14 Final clash against Castres on Saturday.
Wilkinson leaves the game as one of its all-time greats, winning one Premiership title and two Powergen Cups with Newcastle Falcons, two Heineken Cups with Toulon and four Six Nations titles and a World Cup with England.
But alongside those titles came countless world records. As Jonny is set to kick his playing career into touch, we take a look at the amazing Guinness World Records titles he has set in his 18-year career.
Jonny made his England debut aged just 18 when he replaced Mike Catt in a Five Nations match against Ireland at Twickenham on 4 April 1998. Over his career playing in the annual Five/Six Nations tournament, Wilkinson would become one of the competitions all-time greats, scoring the most conversions (89) and drop goals (11) in the tournaments history. He trails only Ronan O’Gara (Ireland) for the most points and the most penalties in the tournament. O’Gara has scored 557 point to Wilkinson’s 546, and the Irishman’s 109 penalties in the competition are four more than Jonny’s 105.
The England legend also holds several records for the best performances in a single Five/Six Nations tournament. He scored an incredible 89 points during the 2001 tournament, the most in any single season of the competition. Those 89 points came from scoring one try, 12 penalties and 24 conversions, the latter of which gave Jonny the record for ‘Most conversions in a Five/Six Nations tournament’. In 2003, he warmed-up for his World Cup winning drop goal with five drop goals in the 2003 Six Nations, equalling the record first achieved by Guy Camberabero (France) for France in 1967, and matched since by three other players. And until last year, Jonny’s 18 penalties in the 2000 tournament were the most in one season, until Leigh Halfpenny (Wales) kicked 19 during the 2013 competition.
Not only has Jonny achieved greatness in individual Five/Six Nations tournaments, he has also displayed record-breaking skill in individual matches. Wilkinson has scored the ‘Most points by an individual in a Five/Six Nations match’ with 35 points for England against Italy at Twickenham on 17 February 2001. Those 35 points comprised of one try, nine conversions and four penalties. The nine conversions also broke the record for ‘Most conversions in a Five/Six Nations match’ and the combination of conversions and penalties, 13 in total, set the record for ‘Most goals kicked in a Five/Six Nations match’. Jonny’s final Five/Six Nations record is for the seven penalties he kicked against France at Twickenham on 20 March 1999, a record he shares with six other players.
On the grandest stage of them all, the IRB Rugby World Cup, Jonny also shines brighter than his peers. He is the career leader in points (277), penalties (58) and drop goals (14) in World Cup tournaments. During England’s triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign, Jonny scored 113 points, good for second all-time behind record holder Grant Fox (New Zealand), who helped the Kiwi’s to the title in the first ever Rugby Union World Cup in 1987 by scoring 126 points.
Jonny’s incredible ability to fire drop goals between the posts was clearly in evidence during the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup. He sent eight drop goals between the posts, giving him the title for ‘Most drop goals scored in a Rugby Union World Cup tournament’. He even managed to score three drop goals in one match, a feat only bettered by Jannie de Beer’s (South Africa) record breaking five drop goals whilst playing for South Africa against England in the 1999 World Cup Quarter-Final.
Despite an injury plagued career that saw him spend many hours in the treatment room, Jonny was always able to rebound and have a long international career. This was highlighted by the fact that he is the only player to score points in two Rugby Union World Cup Finals. In England's World Cup win in 2003, Wilkinson scored four penalties and that famous drop goal in his side’s victory over Australia. Four years later, England reached the final again, losing 15-6 to South Africa. Wilkinson's two penalties were the only points England managed in that final.
His dominance for England led to his inclusion on two tours with the British and Irish Lions. He went to Australia with the Lions in 2001 and was part of their tour of New Zealand in 2005. Over his Lions career, Wilkinson is the leading point scorer with 67, is tied with Stephen Jones (Wales) for the most conversions with seven and is second only to Gavin Hastings (Scotland) for the most penalties in a Lions career, having scored 16 across his two tours compared to Hastings’ 20. Jonny also holds the record for ‘Most penalty goals kicked in a Rugby Union British Lions & Irish Lions match’ with 6 (tied with Hastings) and held the record for most points in one game with 20, until Leigh Halfpenny surpassed his total with 21 points in the third test against Australia in the Lions most recent tour in 2013.
However, the most impressive of Wilkinson’s records come when you don’t just consider one tournament, but international rugby as a whole. He has scored more drop goals in international rugby than anyone else with 36 and ties with fellow rugby union legend Dan Carter (New Zealand) for the most penalties in an international career with 255. And he trails only Carter’s 1,442 points for the ‘Most points in a Rugby Union international career’. From his debut in 1998 to his international retirement in 2011, Wilkinson amassed a total of 1,246 in international rugby, with Carter only pulling ahead once Jonny had retired. Who knows, if Jonny had carried on, perhaps he’d still have that record too.
Despite all he achieved in the game, the crowning glory of Jonny’s career was definitely when he helped England to beat rivals Australia in the final of the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup. With the scores level in extra time, Wilkinson received a pass from Matt Dawson with a sight of goal and Jonny did the rest.
As he hopes to sign off with another trophy for Toulon on Saturday, Jonny Wilkinson leaves a hole in rugby union which will be impossible to replace. Guinness World Records salutes the amazing career of Jonny Wilkinson and wish him all the best in his retirement.
Wilkinson’s 19 Guinness World Records titles:
Most penalties in a Rugby Union international career
Most drop goals in an international Rugby Union career
Most conversions in the Five/Six Nations Championships
Most drop goals scored in the Five/Six Nations Championships
Most points in a Five/Six Nations tournament (individual)
Most conversions in a Five/Six Nations tournament (individual)
Most drop goals scored in a Five/Six Nations tournament (individual)
Most points by an individual in a Five/Six Nations match
Most conversions in a Five/Six Nations match
Most goals kicked in a Five/Six Nations match
Most penalty goals kicked in a Five/Six Nations match
Most points in a Rugby Union World Cup career
Most penalty goals kicked in a Rugby Union World Cup career
Most drop goals scored in a Rugby Union World Cup career
Most drop goals scored in a Rugby Union World Cup tournament (individual)
Most Rugby Union World Cup finals an individual has scored points in
Most points in a Rugby Union British Lions & Irish Lions career
Most conversions in a Rugby Union British Lions & Irish Lions career
Most penalty goals kicked in a Rugby Union British Lions & Irish Lions match