Wilkinson: Toulon have set their sights on Top14

Toulon are gunning for France’s Top 14 title after the Heineken Cup champions came agonisingly close last season according to club captain Jonny Wilkinson.

“It was difficult to go right to the wire last year and not win it,” the 34-year-old former England fly-half said in French at a news conference in Paris.

“It was disappointing. We’re going to try to build a season where at the end we’ll be playing for the trophy.”

Wilkinson, a firm favourite at the Mediterranean club since his transfer from Newcastle Falcons in 2009, said he personally could not prioritise domestic success over European glory.

“I play every match as if it was the last of my career,” the 2003 World Cup winner told reporters.

“You can’t pick your matches or your performances. At the end of my career, I’m thinking about every second and every moment is very important.”

Wilkinson has been the source of speculation about when he will hang up his boots and surprised many by extending his contract until the end of the coming season.

Asked if the 2013-14 Top 14 season would be his last, he added: “You never know.

“I wasn’t sure that last season wouldn’t have been my last but I’m back again with the same hunger, the same desire to get on, to try to improve and bring something more to the team.

“Being captain is also something to manage and I’ll see how that goes.”

Toulon, meanwhile, revealed that Springbok international Joe Van Niekerk would miss the start of the after breaking down with a sprained knee ligament.

The former South African player of the year, who can play at flanker or number 8, is set to be out of action for up to four weeks, ruling him out of Friday’s curtain raiser against Montpellier.

Toulon, who narrowly missed out on the French championship when they lost to Castre one week after winning the Heineken Cup against Clermont, are also deprived the services of Alexis Palisson, Frederic Michalak, Jean-Charles Orioli and Emmanuel Felsina with a variety of injuries.

On a positive note, Springbok Bakkies Botha, Mathieu Bastareaud and Rudi Wolf have all returned to training and should be fit for their Top 14 opener.

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