Jonny Wilkinson embarks on another chapter of his injury-plagued career when he lines up in the French Top 14 opener for Toulon against Stade Francais on Friday.
England’s World Cup winning flyhalf recently signed a three-year deal for the French club and hopes that a plethora of injuries that have limited his involvement since that memorable victory in 2003, are behind him.
Introductions don’t come much harder than against one of the giants of French rugby, although the fact that the match will be played at Toulon’s imposing home ground, Stade Felix Mayol, will help ease his nerves slightly.
Wilkinson says his expectations of himself are high and he is confident he can meet the huge expectation, but he remains anxious about the season ahead.
‘It is a massive unknown,’ Wilkinson told the London Telegraph. ‘I will just try to think, “you’re in France and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’
‘Basically, it’s a chance to put the latest injury problems behind me. That’s important. The thing I am most grateful for is the chance to learn and to see where I stand. You’ve got to try things – some things will come off and some things won’t, but that’s how I did it first time and it’s how I’m going to do it this time.’
Asked for his thoughts to the clash with Stade, who boast a number of France internationals, Wilkinson said his focus was entirely on his role within his team.
‘I’ve never played against them and won’t be worrying too much about them. I’m just looking forward to it.’
Springbok flanker and Toulon captain Joe van Niekerk will miss the match because of a neck injury.