19 May 2013

Toulon, Wilkinson delight in dismissing detractors

3:33 pm on 19 May 2013

Toulon were crowned European champions this morning in a victory first five Jonny Wilkinson said was as good as winning the Rugby World Cup.

Plying their trade in the second tier of French rugby just five years ago, the team from the Mediterranean capped their rapid rise in Dublin when they came from behind to beat Clermont Auvergne 16-15 for their first European title.

Backed by president Mourad Boudjellal's personal millions, the club have been ridiculed for their policy of paying high wages to international "has-beens".

A week shy of his 34th birthday, captain Wilkinson proved the detractors wrong, the former England number 10, who kicked all Toulon's points in the quarter and semi-finals, was again flawless from the tee.

So indebted to the Toulon cause is Wilkinson that he turned down the opportunity to tour with the British and Irish Lions next month to focus on the French side's hunt for a double before using the off-season to rest his battered body.