Gatland rules out early Lions call up for Wilkinson

Warren Gatland has been appointed as British and Irish Lions head coach

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has insisted that England world cup and Heineken Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson will not be getting an early call up unless his Lions squad is hit by injury.

Gatland called Wilkinson on the phone before the Lions squad announcement but the former England flyhalf said that he needed to concentrate on Toulon’s Heineken Cup and Top 14 campaigns and apparently turned Gatland down.

Wilkinson was crowned European player of the year on Sunday to cap a memorable weekend for the English star, who had kicked Toulon to victory over Clermont Auvergne in the final of the Heineken Cup just 24 hours earlier.

The 33-year-old was asked to tour by Gatland before the 37-man squad was announced on April 30, but Wilkinson rejected the opportunity due to his commitments at Toulon and deteriorating fitness.

While Gatland confirmed that Wilkinson remains an option if either Jonathan Sexton or Owen Farrell are injured, he insists the fly-half’s most recent heroics have failed to convince him another approach is necessary.

“We’ve been through the conversation that we had with Jonny and nothing’s changed on that,” Gatland said.

“If we picked up an injury on tour then maybe there’s a conversation to be had.

“Jonny’s a good player, but we’ve had the conversation about him.”

Meanwhile, Gatland expects Leinster duo Brian O’Driscoll and Sean O’Brien to be on board Monday’s flight to Hong Kong, where the tour opens against the Barbarians on June 1.

O’Driscoll should play in this weekend’s Celtic League final against Ulster after making progress in his recovery from the back spasm that ruled him out of Friday’s victory over Stade Francais.

O’Brien played in the European Challenge Cup final against Stade, only to pick up a knee injury that will sideline him for two weeks.

“Sean has been looked at by the medics and hopefully he’ll spend this week with us,” said Gatland, who was speaking at the Lions’ week-long training camp just outside Dublin.

“He has a bit of bone bruising, but it was more positive than first thought.

“Brian is hoping to be fit to play this weekend. He’s on his feet again.”

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