Top 14
Toulon hope to convince Wilkinson to play on
ESPN Staff
January 20, 2013
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal welcomes English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson to the club, Toulon press conference, Toulon, France, May 27, 2009
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal welcomes Jonny Wilkinson to the club back in 2009 © Getty Images

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal is hoping that fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will shelve any retirement plans he has and sign a new deal with the Top 14 giants.

The 33-year-old's current deal is set to expire at the end of the season with widespread speculation and the club's recruitment plans for the next campaign suggesting he is poised to call time on his career. Wilkinson himself insists he will not make a decision on his playing future until next month but comments from Boudjellal hint that he accepts it will be a battle to convince the former England international to extend his career.

"I am meeting Jonny soon to have talks with him. I will not hide from you that the subject is very delicate," Boudjellal is quoted as saying by The Rugby Paper. "When you have a legend in your squad, you want to push back as far as you can the moment you make a statue of him.

"At his age (33), it is still a little early to make a statue of Jonny. I think he easily has another season in his legs. Now it is up to him to decide whether he will still be an active player on June 30."

Wilkinson, whose side are pushing for both Top 14 and Heineken Cup glory this season, has enjoyed a rich vein of form since moving from the Premiership to France's top division in 2009 and despite having retired from international rugby following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, he has his eyes on what would be a third British & Irish Lions tour later this year.

The injuries that plagued much of Wilkinson's career before his switch have also been few and far between with the Mediterranean a clear elixir, but Boudjellal fears the game has still taken its toll. "I am not in his head and his body," he said. "I cannot feel his pains. But, if he needs any help to make his decision, I will be there to talk about it."

Wilkinson is adored in Toulon and even if he decides to hang up his boots, Boudjellal wants him to remain a feature at the Stade Felix Mayol - and not just as a statue. "If Jonny were unhappily to stop, he could take any place he wants at the heart of the club," insisted Boudjellal. "Jonny is such a perfectionist that, whatever he wants to do, he will inevitably be the best."

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