Monday, June 02, 2014


I suppose, like most people, I have vivid memories of where I was when certain events took place.   And one of them took place close to Alresford in Hampshire on 22nd November, 2003.   I was driving from home in Kent to Southampton to see the Saints play Chelsea in a Premier League encounter at St. Mary`s Stadium.   

It`s a long drive and so I had the car radio on for company.  Now I would normally have been listening to Classic FM`s top 20 but on that particular morning a very special event was taking place on the other side of the world - the Rugby World Cup Final between England and Australia in Sydney.   And it was on the A31 close to Alresford that I heard Jonny Wilkinson scoring the decisive drop goal that secured the Webb Ellis Cup for England.   What a moment!   And as well as remembering where I was at the time, I still have the memories in my mind of the jubilant commentary of that moment by the BBC`s Ian Robertson - "And Jonny Wilkinson is England`s hero, yet again."

Now over the last weekend, Wilkinson played his last ever competitive game - for the French club Toulon winning the French Top 14 Final in Paris by defeating Castres 18-10.   The week before, Wilkinson led Toulon to their Heineken Cup triumph in Cardiff, beating Saracens 23-6.   

And so a glorious playing career comes to an end - 91 caps for England, second only to Jason Leonard;  1179 International points scored, second only to New Zealand`s Dan Carter and Wilkinson stands amongst the most revered and admired in the history of the game, not only for his remarkable contribution as a player but also as an example of how to play the game and conduct oneself off the field of play.

Now of course various honours have come his way during his 17 year career.  However, there aren`t too many knights of the realm from the sporting world and Rugby Union seems especially sparse - Sir Clive Woodward, Sir Ian McGeechan and a small handful of others bestowed with knighthoods but it`s arguable that any player has given so much to the game as Wilkinson, so maybe it`s time for another one.

Oh and by the way, Chelsea won 1-0 but on that day it really didn`t matter as the spirits which had been raised on the outskirts of Alresford on that unforgettable morning stayed with me throughout the day and the long drive home.   And even now, each time I make the journey to Southampton and drive along that stretch of the A31 the memories of that glorious moment always come flooding back.   

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