One of the stars of the 2001 Lions tour of Australia, Wilkinson has been plagued by injuries since guiding England to World Cup glory six years ago.
The former Newcastle fly-half recovered from a series of setbacks to make the 2005 tour of New Zealand but a knee injury prevented him from putting himself into contention for the summer tour of South Africa.
The 30-year-old has since moved to France and is enjoying a resurgence in his playing career. And with England's autumn Test opener against the Wallabies now less than a week away, Wilkinson has told The People that the thought of retirement is one that fills him with dread.
"I fear the day that I stop playing rugby," Wilkinson told Adam Hathaway.
"There is still a motivating factor. What gets to me sometimes is watching whatever rugby game is on TV and seeing someone do something and thinking 'I should get that into my game'.
Wilkinson is set to make his first international appearance for 18 months when he runs out at Twickenham this Saturday.
And the returning hero has explained that his decision to end his association with Newcastle and head to Toulon this year has given him a huge boost ahead of England's games against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
"There is no doubt I needed to do it," added Wilkinson.
"What tipped me over the edge was the fact that when I was coming back to Newcastle they had contracted me to play one or two games a season.
"For all the good I was trying to do it was the opposite and it helped me make the final call. The club I am at now is fabulous but what has really helped has been consistently playing."