Tindall and Lancaster lead tributes to 'ultimate professional' Wilkinson
ESPN Staff
May 19, 2014
Mike Tindall helps out Jonny Wilkinson back in 2003 © Getty Images

England World Cup-winner Mike Tindall has led the tributes to Jonny Wilkinson hailing him as the "ultimate professional".

Wilkinson announced on Tuesday he will retire after Toulon's final two matches of the season as he brings down the curtain on a hugely impressive 17-year career. Tindall, who played alongside Wilkinson in the team that won the World Cup back in 2003, paid tribute to Wilkinson telling Sky Sports: "He was always the ultimate professional and I was lucky to play with him through all the age groups and we played on the schoolboy tour of 1997 all the way up to the top.

"He was completely dedicated to the sport; he's a student of the sport and always wanted to push the boundaries of where he wanted to go. He set standards people had to match who played with him and he single-handedly helped push England forward."

On his memories of 2003, Tindall added: "It was four years in the making. Following the 1999 World Cup, the whole Clive Woodward goal was to win it in 2003. It was a strange feeling after that, as you have focused on it for four years and you end up asking more questions about what's next and what you do from there.

"You enjoy the moment but it was the accumulation of four years of hard graft and satisfaction. It was made for Wilko to finish it off in the way that he does. He missed two attempts at a drop-goal with his favoured left foot so he decided to knock it over with his right and that's the type of bloke he was."

England coach Stuart Lancaster paid his own tribute to Wilkinson, saying: "He's probably the most influential player in the English rugby game I'd say and certainly right up there with the very, very best. His execution, the ability to win games on his own, nail the big moments - everything really is fantastic about his career.

"If he hadn't had the injuries he'd had, how many international caps would he have got? But it's his influence off the field I think defines him and that's the legacy he leaves. His level of preparation and attention to detail off the field was unsurpassed and then you've got so many young players who've seen that, been touched by it and have been involved with him and thought 'actually, I thought I was working hard to be the best I can be but this guy has shown me there is a different level.

"He's had a huge influence on so many players and that's probably the legacy that he leaves."

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