Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson claims top award
Jonny Wilkinson has capped a triumphant Heineken Cup campaign with Toulon by being named European player of the year.
Last Updated: 19/05/13 11:33pm
Wilkinson captained Toulon to a staggering 16-15 victory over Clermont Auvergne in Sunday's Dublin final.
The 33-year-old did not miss a kick in the knock-out stages of the tournament, landing 17 from 17 as Toulon defeated Leicester, Saracens and then Clermont to be crowned European champions.
"To receive an award of this importance towards the end of my career is really special. I feel privileged to have been nominated," Wilkinson said.
The former Newcastle star went on to explain how victory in Europe's elite club competition in a way tops the World Cup glory of 2003.
He added: "I was part of a great England team. I sat there thinking that it was the worst feeling in the world.
"Instead of thinking 'we've won it, it's done and it's a great thing to celebrate' - which is what I feel more about this now - at the time I almost hated it.
"I was worrying that I had topped out at 24 and that was it. I was always so worried that it was going to be the last thing. I said 'I can't let this be the last thing, I don't want to play under the shadow of that'.
"Before the injuries I always felt I'd been building towards something. Then a new door opened at Toulon and suddenly I'm in a final and I've written another chapter.
"All of a sudden you can actually start to appreciate the World Cup in a way I've never done. This campaign is done and I can actually enjoy it and appreciate it. I don't have to start to compete with it."
Three of the final five-man shortlist were from Clermont - the former All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, France centre Wesley Fofana and loose-forward Julien Bonnaire.
Jamie Heaslip, who captained Leinster to the Amlin Challenge Cup title with victory over Stade Francais on Friday night, completed the list of nominees.