Rugby: Over-the-top farewells need to be shown the door

By Alasdair Reid

Jonny Wilkinson. Photo / Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson. Photo / Getty Images

In February 1988, Luciano Pavarotti delivered one of the greatest performances in operatic history at the Berlin Opera House. It was not so much his masterful singing as what came after.


Having taken his bow and headed for the wings, Pavarotti was called back 165 times as the audience's applause rang out for an hour.

Those 165 curtain calls are believed to be a record — and one that will probably never be broken. If anyone comes close, it may well happen in sport, where we are entrenched in the era of the long goodbye.

Type the words "Jonny Wilkinson retirement" into Google and it will return more than 300,000 results. And that figure probably applies just to newspaper articles over the last week. This, though, really is the end for the man who booted England to World Cup glory in Sydney 11 years ago, as this morning (NZT) he played his last game of rugby in Toulon's Top 14 final clash with Castres at the Stade de France.

And then there's Brian O'Driscoll. Another great player, but are we not going overboard with this farewell thing? Over the past 12 months, O'Driscoll has crossed more finishing lines than Usain Bolt.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal is now planning to ask the French league if he can take Wilkinson's No 10 shirt out of commission as well. Toulon wore commemorative jerseys with the words 'Merci Jonny' stitched into the collars. It is a touching tribute, but anything more would be sentimental nonsense.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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