TODAY (Wednesday, May 25), rugby union legend Jonny Wilkinson celebrates his 43rd birthday.

Born in 1979 in Frimley, Surrey, Wilkinson gave up his place at the University of Durham in 1997 to become a professional rugby union player with the Newcastle Falcons.

Predominantly a fly-half during his professional career, Jonny started as an inside centre when he started his career at the Newcastle School of Rugby, competing for a place alongside Alan Tait. The Scotsman grew up in north Cumbria as his father, Alan Senior, spent seven years playing rugby league with Workington Town.

In the 12 years Wilkinson played in the northeast, he featured 182 times, being part of the side that had won the Premiership during the 1997-98 season. He also won the Powergen Cup twice with the Falcons in 2001 and 2004.


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In the final five years of his playing career Jonny travelled across the Channel to play for French Riviera side Toulon. During his time with the Top 14 side, he won the league once and the Heineken Cup, a tournament featuring Europe’s best teams, twice. He was named ERC European Player of the Year for the 2013 tournament.

Wilkinson was a member of England’s national squad from 1998-2011, with rugby fans across the world getting accustomed to his unique stance in the build up to taking a penalty or conversion attempt.

He featured 91 times for the red and whites, winning the Six Nations four times. Arguably the most memorable moment during his time with the side however was at the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, when he successfully converted a drop kick attempt in the 100th minute of extra time to secure the country’s first ever tournament win.

In May 2014, Wilkinson announced his retirement from the sport, scoring 3,933 points in a 17-year club career, scoring 1,179 points for the national squad.

Since retiring, he has appeared as a studio pundit for Sky Sports and ITV Sport, working on coverage of the Champions Cup, Six Nations Championship, Rugby World Cup and England Internationals. In the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) 'for services to Rugby Union'.

In today’s nostalgia section, we look back at Cumbrians who have stepped onto the rugby field throughout the years.


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