Sir Clive’s superstar

England great Jonny Wilkinson has been hailed as a 'genuine superstar' by former coach Sir Clive Woodward. [more]

Sir Clive’s superstar

England great Jonny Wilkinson has been hailed as a ‘genuine superstar’ by former coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Wilkinson announced his retirement from international rugby yesterday following 91 appearances for England and six for the Lions.

The hero of England’s 2003 World Cup winning campaign has since received plenty of praise from around the globe but the comments of 2005 Lions boss Woodward standout from the crowd.

“He took the game to another level, not just here in England but all over the world,” Woodward told The Daily Telegraph.

“I always felt that if we, as a sport, could produce genuine superstars – the kind of players that kids would want to become, or look up to as superb professionals – it could really help the game and he absolutely fitted into that category.

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“He’s in the same bracket as David Beckham, in terms of the impact he made in his own sport. Kids could relate to him, people admired him – even people who weren’t necessarily diehard rugby fans.

“To see him blossom and develop in the way he did was fantastic and what he’s done for England rugby is unbelievable.”

Woodward, who handed Wilkinson his England debut back in 1998, insists the Toulon No10 was the perfect player to coach.

He now hopes a new-look England will find more players of Wilkinson’s stature as they begin the search for World Cup glory in 2015.

“It’s the end of an era for that 2003 World Cup-winning team. He was the symbol of that side and I’m sure all of us who were involved in that set-up feel hugely honoured and gratified to have worked with him,” added Woodward.

“I’ve seen him in lots of situations and he was always the same: professional, hard-working and straightforward.

“That team was very lucky to have him on board and I feel very lucky in that sense, because he was a dream to coach.

“I hope we can replace him, he was a wonderful player but the aim has to be to try and replace someone who set the bar so high. I’m sure he would say that we now need to find kids who are coming through who can do what he did for their country.”

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