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Wilkinson ruled himself out of Lions tour


Jonny Wilkinson kicked Toulon into the Heineken Cup final on Sunday

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Article Published: Wednesday 1 May 2013


2013 British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed that Jonny Wilkinson ruled himself out of the Lions tour of Australia but he is on standby.

The New Zealander said that fly-half Wilkinson could yet be called up as a replacement if an injury to one of the two flyhalves named in the squad are injured.

Wilkinson kicked the match-winning drop-goal that saw England defeat Australia in a thrilling World Cup final in Sydney ten years ago and showed on Sunday he still has plenty to offer.

Wilkinson's masterly display in kicking all of Toulon's points in their 24-12 Heineken Cup semi-final win over Saracens at Twickenham on Sunday led to renewed speculation as to whether he would be selected for a third Lions tour.

But Gatland named current England stand-off Owen Farrell and Ireland's Jonathan Sexton as his two fly-halves - with Wilkinson having endorsed the duo immediately after his man-of-the-match effort for Toulon at Twickenham

"He (Wilkinson) wasn't available," Gatland told reporters.

"He said he really appreciated the call but that he was committed to Toulon and would not be able to travel with the squad."

France's Top 14 final takes place on the same day as the Lions play the Barbarians in a tour opener in Hong Kong on June 1 and Wilkinson, whose Toulon club are already in the semi-finals, could find himself required for the climax of the French domestic season.

Wilkinson's Toulon's team-mate Gethin Jenkins was included after being cleared by his club, for whom the Welsh prop is not a first choice player.

Gatland, asked if he had called Wilkinson to include him in his squad, replied,"I wouldn't have made the call otherwise. But we wanted the whole squad to be able to play in Hong Kong and he couldn't make that commitment."

Gatland also suggested Wilkinson himself had indicated he had doubts about his ability to last a Lions tour.

"He said he was struggling with his body and managing things week to week and I think he'd struggle to get through a seven-week tour."

But Gatland did say Wilkinson, who turns 34 next month, could yet be included as a possible injury replacement.

 
 
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