Devoted Wilkinson was a unique talent
So it's goodbye Jonny. English rugby is much the poorer for his departure but the time had come and the time was right.
The new coaching team of Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell need to focus on the next World Cup in 2015 and finding the next Jonny Wilkinson. The search will not be easy. Wilkinson is a once-in-a-generation player.
He will forever be remembered for the drop goal - off his wrong foot - that brought England their first World Cup that famous November night in Sydney 2003. But he offered his country so much more than just a great kicking game.
Wilkinson practised and practised to master his craft. Photo: Getty
At his peak, not only was he the outstanding goalkicker of his generation, but he was the best distributor of the ball in world rugby, his offensive tackling was outstanding for a fly-half and he was blessed with the calmest of temperaments.
When England were playing their best rugby in the build-up to the 2003 World Cup, Wilkinson was playing his best rugby. It was no coincidence.
From an early age, he had been earmarked as something special and he was different to the rest of the young thrusters of his era.
From his earliest days as a rugby professional, Wilkinson stretched the boundaries of dedication to new levels. His lengthy kicking practices are legendary. No-one put more time in to perfect their craft. No-one showed the intense motivation he showed.
The dark, windswept expanses of Kingston Park in Newcastle provided the young number 10 with his playground. Or his torture chamber, depending on which way you look at it.
If kicking a rugby ball was what Wilkinson was born to do, then he turned himself into a mightily impressive all-round international fly-half. His passing was outstanding and his defence was worthy of the highest class of flanker.
Cast your mind back a few years to when his shoulder was in full working order and he was scything players down in midfield with a well-timed hit.
I will never forget one particular moment at the Stade de France in the Six Nations when the rangy Emile N'Tamack was weaving a path through heavy traffic and beginning to gain some serious momentum. Wilkinson appeared from nowhere and, with a momentum and timing all of his own, cut the winger in half.
You could hear the whole stadium wince at the impact. You expect this from muscle-bound back rowers. It was far from normal to see it from a fly-half.
His bravery and relish in defence caused problems, of course. Matt Dawson, a World Cup-winning team-mate of Wilkinson's and a BBC Radio 5live commentary colleague, was forever shouting at him to get out of rucks and concentrate on standing at first receiver, ready to dictate the next play.
Wilkinson's willingness to put his body on the line certainly caused him problems, as numerous "stinger" injuries and worse afflicted him over the years. Similar to the ever-reckless Lewis Moody, Wilkinson had little regard for his own safety.
Wilkinson's debilitating injuries also defined him. Or rather, the manner in which he set about denying the toll on his limbs defined him. He repeatedly refused to allow his ailing shoulders, neck, knees or groin to get him down and count him out.
In the period immediately after the 2003 World Cup, he suffered more than most players might expect in an entire career. Yet back he came, displaying astonishing resilience time after time, reclaiming the English number 10 shirt on each separate occasion.
Wilkinson lies injured during the 2003 World Cup semi-final against France. Photo: Getty
In the eulogies that follow his international retirement - and this is another - his failings will be largely overlooked. He was not perfect, though he constantly sought perfection.
Wilkinson was never lightning quick, never a player to strike fear into the opposition defence on the gain line. His running was characterised by a scuttling, stuttering style. Occasionally he would jink his way in and out of tackles, but his remarkable talents lay largely elsewhere.
Those who played with him a lot at international level will tell you that his game management was not his chief strength either. This may surprise a few, but Wilkinson was the executor of the strategy, not the mastermind.
His best rugby came alongside those with the vision and communication skills to direct him - the likes of Dawson, Will Greenwood and Mike Catt. They were his eyes and ears. More often than not, he implemented what they suggested. It proved a priceless ability.
Across the entirety of his 91 caps and 1,179 points for England, the additional 67 for the British and Irish Lions, the Grand Slam and the four World Cups, Wilkinson has been the most committed and humble of international sporting stars.
He was - and will remain, for his French club Toulon - all about preparation and dedication; the very epitome of professionalism.
As a role model, he is second to none. He is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary talent who gave a nation their happiest rugby moment. For many, it remains their happiest rugby memory. There is sadness in knowing that such a special performer will never again grace the grandest of stages.