Wilkinson still Toulon’s inspiration

Date published: May 1 2015

Toulon boss Bernard Laporte paid tribute to Jonny Wilkinson for inspiring the side ahead of this weekend's Champions Cup Final.

The former England number ten guided Toulon to their first two European titles before retiring. He has gone to work as a part-time skills coach with the team this season.

An icon during his time with Toulon, Laporte revealed that Wilkinson's presence would motivate the side to win again on Saturday.

"Jonny did bring us a lot, he was part of the players who left last summer and everybody cried," said Laporte.

"He left after two European titles and very few could claim such a performance. Jonny is here with us, of course. There is a great motivation to do it for Jonny and uphold what he has done before."

Laporte added that replacing Wilkinson's many roles had required three players to step up. 

"Jonny would occupy three functions: fly-half, goal-kicker and captain. He was exemplary every time and this is why we decided this season to give those three things to three different players," said Laporte.

"Leigh Halfpenny is like Jonny's copy when it comes to kicking, then you have Matt Giteau to run the side from fly-half, and Carl Hayman to lead the team as captain.

"Jonny passed on a lot of seriousness, he was an example for the club but he has passed on that example to the squad now. We have a lot of players who still set examples now too, so there will be the same motivation for everyone.

"When you get to this level of rugby you always want to be someone who will mark history, to put your name in the record books.

"That's the motivation: that we would enter legend. But it's not the legend that's driving us, we want to be European champions. If we were to win then okay, we will be European champions and we will enter history."