It was Woodward who gave Wilkinson the first of his 91 England caps in 1998 and he was still in charge when the No.10 landed the extra-time drop-goal that won the 2003 World Cup final against Australia in Sydney.

“He was a marvellous team man,” Woodward told Sky News of the now 32-year-old Wilkinson, who plans to continue playing for French side Toulon. “He set out to be the No.1 player in the world in his position but behind that his team ethic was fantastic and he was a real role model for that.

“He just put everything into his game in terms of off the field – he left nothing to chance,” former England centre Woodward added.

“I admired how he went about his business and how much work he did when no-one was around. He did a lot on his own, studied and learned the game.

“It’s a lesson to any young person about what has to happen. He took his game to a whole new level.”

Wilkinson is England’s record points scorer and second in the all-time list behind New Zealand’s Dan Carter, with a tally, including British and Irish Lions points, of 1,246.

Following the 2003 World Cup final, injuries meant it was nearly four years before Wilkinson, renowned for his dedicated approach to training, returned to Test duty.

“Jonny redefined the standards for rugby players in his extraordinary international playing career,” said Rugby Players’ Association chief executive Damian Hopley.

“His capacity for hard work, continual improvement and dedication has left a lasting legacy by which future players will be judged.”

England wing Ugo Monye explained Wilkinson’s training regime had been established early in his career.

“I went to school with Johnny. The way he trained then as a 16-year-old is just how he trains now,” Monye said.

Wilkinson called time on Test rugby after a mediocre World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year.

His famed goalkicking accuracy deserted him as an England team managed by 2003 captain Martin Johnson, who has since resigned, struggled through to the quarter-finals where they lost to France.

Someone glad Wilkinson was retiring from Test duty was Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, who two years ago brought him across from Newcastle to the south of France and has since made him club captain.

“It was a topic of discussion with him because by taking part in the World Cup and the 2012 Six Nations, he would only have played half a season for Toulon,” Boudjellal said. “So, it’s good news for Toulon in as much as he wears the captain’s armband.”

But ex-England scrum-half Kyran Bracken, a former Test team-mate of Wilkinson, said the stand-off could yet play at the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if, come the next World Cup, a phone call comes in for him,” Bracken told BBC Radio Five.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Jonny Wilkinson put on an England shirt again.”