Wilkinson will be back for Premiership start

Newcastle Falcons say that they are confident that England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will be fit for the start of the new season which starts in two weeks.

Wilkinson is now 29 years old and underwent surgery before the summer to repair cartilage in his shoulder but should be fit for the Falcons’ opening league game with Sale on 7 September.

He was reported to have been training well with Martin Johnson’s England Elite squad two weeks ago which is a boost for England as Danny Cipriani is still out injured.

“Jonny is doing great,” Falcons rugby director Steve Bates told the BBC.

“He looks in tip-top condition.”

“He has had a bit of contact work and the medical opinion is very strong that he will be fit for the Sale game.”

Wilkinson’s incredible list of injuries over the past four years is longer than most rugby player;s injury lists for their entire lives.

He returned to fitness just in time for England’s Six Nations campaign in 2007 and then picked up an injury early in the World cup but played on and made it through to the final.

In January this year he signed a new deal with he Falcons that will keep him at the club for a a few more years.

During this year’s Six Nations he became the world’s highest points scorer but then lost his starting place to Danny Cipriani for the final match against Ireland.

Wilkinson had what was described as a “long-standing tear” but continued to play for Newcastle but that cam to an abrupt end when the Falcons were knocked out of the European Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage in April.

He took time off for the operation which ruled him out of England’s tour to New Zealand which was more famous for what happened off the field than what happened on it.

In July he was named in Martin Johnson’s first elite player squad but he is the only specialist fly-half in the squad.

“Jonny is having a scan this week just to make sure that everything has healed up,” added Bates.

“He had as full a part in training on our recent trip to France as was appropriate at this time in his recovery.”

Newcastle will be desperate to have Wilkinson at full fitness after two other England stars in Toby Flood and Mathew Tait both left the club last season.

Bates says that the decision to reduce the number of English backs in his squad was in part down to the new deal struck between the Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union which has recently come into force.

England management will now pay huge amounts of compensation to the clubs in return for having more access to their Elite squad.

“Certainly part of our strategy was that we could not afford to have four guys in a back line that were going to be missing for 11 games.” said Bates.

“The four players that have to replace them are not going to be of equivalent quality because it is going to be difficult to carry four international backs to cover them when they are away.

“And the problem is finding the rugby that they need in order to step in and play for an autumn series when they probably have not played before at that level.”



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