Jonny Wilkinson details Super League opportunity he passed up on during glittering rugby union career

Ben Olawumi
Jonny Wilkinson, Super League logo

England rugby union icon Jonny Wilkinson could have starred in Super League during his playing days - Alamy

England rugby union icon Jonny Wilkinson has revealed that he came close to switching codes and joining Wigan Warriors during his glittering career, speaking to the league legend that is Rob Burrow MBE.

Fly-half Wilkinson will forever have his name etched into the nation’s history books having kicked the drop goal which sealed England’s first-ever union World Cup triumph in 2003, beating Australia 20-17 in their own backyard.

That was one of 97 international appearances made by the Surrey native, 91 for England with six for the British & Irish Lions.

Retiring at the end of the 2013/14 season, Wilkinson now works as a pundit for various outlets, and appeared on the ‘Seven‘ podcast hosted by Leeds Rhinos great Burrow and his wife Lindsey via the BBC.

England rugby union great Jonny Wilkinson details Super League opportunity he passed up on

Burrow last week kicked his new podcast series off by welcoming Manchester United and England icon Wayne Rooney, now the manager of EFL Championship outfit Birmingham City.

And in the second episode released this morning on BBC Sounds, Wilkinson was the guest, as he revealed his links to league and more specifically the reigning Super League champions.

The 44-year-old said: “It’s mad now, I probably watch more rugby league than I do rugby union, and it’s been like that for a long time. I always wondered: ‘Could I do it? I always wondered if I could adapt (to league), and I had an opportunity.

“I was injured for so long, but I had a couple of opportunities. They were largely just there thrown out to help me out to say, ‘look, after your injuries, do you want to come and do a summer with us?’

“It was just a few months around the Wigan team at the time, and there was part of me that was like I’d love to go and find out.

“The only issue was that had I re-injured, the rest of my career was gone. Clubs who’d employed me would never have let that go.”

Wilkinson admits he continues to be ‘hugely inspired’ by rugby league

Former Newcastle Falcons ace Wilkinson’s praise for the code of league didn’t stop there, continuing: “I was hugely inspired by rugby league.

“I spent a lot of my time trying to impress those guys who came towards me! So, like the Jasons (Robinson) and Andy Farrells, whenever I was next to them. I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something so that they respect me’.

“I love what the guys do. I love the fact that if you were to go take a ball it’s because you mean to score. I watch it all the time.

“If it’s on. I find myself sat there going ‘oh, highlights of more Super League games or the NRL.'”

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