Wilkinson's Lions hopes take a blow
April 23, 2013
Jonny Wilkinson has shone for Toulon this term © Getty Images
Toulon have a host of players on their books who would harbour Lions ambitions with Wilkinson, prop Andrew Sheridan and fellow front-rower Gethin Jenkins all in the mix for a spot on the plane to Australia. While Jenkins' place seems secure, with the prop returning to Cardiff Blues next season after a one-year stint in France, it seems unlikely Gatland will turn to Wilkinson or Sheridan.
The French club are in the mix to reach the Top 14 final - a match that takes place on the same day as the Lions' opener against the Barbarians in Hong Kong - and their coach Bernard Laporte has previously suggested he will not allow his players to link up with the Lions prior to the June 1 match, if they get that far.
This seems to clash with Gatland's wish to have his entire squad flying out to Australia as one on the Monday prior to their match with the Barbarians. If Gatland wanted to include the Toulon contingent then he would have had to come to some agreement with Laporte, but that seems unlikely following his lack of contact, according to reports in the Times.
And in a further blow to Wilkinson's hopes, it seems likely Gatland will take just two stand out fly-halves to Australia. Ireland's Jonathan Sexton is widely regarded to be a front runner for the spot while the other is likely to go to either England's Owen Farrell or Wales' Dan Biggar.
Gatland has admitted, prior to Tuesday's squad announcement, he will probably take another utility back in his squad which could open the door for Perpignan's James Hook, who can cover 10, 12 and 15, or Greig Laidlaw, who has played across both half-back spots.
"Fly-half is such a pivotal position," Gatland told Wales Online. "If we just take two, I feel those two players are going to get three or four games each before the first Test.
"If we take three, we are arriving at the first Test with one or two of your outside-halves having not had a lot of games on the Lions tour. We thought, if we take two out-halves and someone who can sit on the bench and cover that position, that's probably what we will do."
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