Woodward: Lions must take Wilko
April 30, 2013
Sir Clive Woodward embraces Jonny Wilkinson following England's 2003 Rugby World Cup triumph © Getty Images
Woodward, who was in charge for the Lions' tour of New Zealand in 2005, believes Wilkinson deserves his place on merit and is confident his inclusion in the squad would send a shockwave Down Under ahead of the eagerly-awaited Test series against the Wallabies.
Wilkinson, who memorably steered Woodward's England side to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003, offered a timely reminder of his class with a superb display to propel Toulon past Saracens in their Heineken Cup semi-final clash at Twickenham on Sunday.
His performance, and dominance of current England No.10 and Lions rival Owen Farrell, had many pushing his claims for what would be his third Lions tour - despite the fact he is unlikely to be available until the second week of the tour due to a clash with the end of the Top 14 season in France.
"Ask any Australian who they don't want to see walk off that plane and Jonny Wilkinson will be top of the list," Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail. "Forget the fact he is an English icon who won the World Cup; he should make the squad on merit. It comes down to whether, at 33, Wilkinson is capable of dictating play with a running game - and of course he can.
"People focus on Wilkinson's kicking because he is the best kicker in the world, but his passing game is second to none and he was a key player in setting the tempo for my England team, freeing up our strike runners like Jason Robinson.
"He is playing behind a strong pack at Toulon and has seen off two England fly-halves, Leicester's Toby Flood and Saracens' Owen Farrell, in the Heineken Cup. He is as committed as ever, but he has learned when to keep out of tackles and rucks for the good of his team.
"Wilkinson's professionalism is unquestioned -- he was out at Twickenham practising his kicks six-and-a-half hours before kick-off on Sunday. He is in amazing shape and mentally he will be one of the toughest players in the squad."
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