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British & Irish Lions
Wilkinson reveals Lions torment
ESPN Staff
May 1, 2013
Lions coach Warren Gatland reveals Jonny Wilkinson's rejection of a tour place
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Jonny Wilkinson has spoken of his immense disappointment at not being able to take up an offer to player for the British & Irish Lions this summer.

Coach Warren Gatland offered the former England fly-half the chance to tour Hong Kong & Australia but he had to turn it down due to a fixture clash between the date of the Lions' first game against the Barbarians and the culmination of the French domestic season - the Top 14 final - on June 1.

Wilkinson's Toulon side are on course for the season finale and as a result he would not be able to join up with the rest of the Lions squad a week ahead of their opener in Hong Kong as Gatland has stipulated. While the 33-year-old would relish the chance to tour with the Lions for a third time, he insists his club commitments come first.

"It was a hugely proud moment for me to be called by Warren Gatland, to be told that they were thinking of me in this way," Wilkinson told The Times. "I was phenomenally proud to be considered for the Lions, so it's very disappointing that I'm unavailable.

"If Toulon manage to get through to the final of the Top 14, my absolute priority lies with them and helping to get the best out of a team that has been so good to me for so long. It is, after all, these guys who have got me to the stage where I could even be considered for the Lions."

Wilkinson also revealed that concerns over his fitness were a factor in his decision with a fresh operation likely to be required if he is to fulfil the one-year contract he signed last month but hinted he may yet join the tour.

"Warren did mention the opportunity to come out to Australia as a replacement if needed," Wilkinson said. "I told him where I am at the moment, that there's a bit of day-to-day management where my body is concerned. I said that I would still be more than interested in having a chat nearer the time if needed. I'll see how I am at the end of the club season and if Warren needs me and I am able to get involved, that would be fabulous."

Gatland named just two fly-halves in his squad - Leinster and Ireland's Jonathan Sexton and Saracens and England's Owen Farrell with the apparent lack of cover for the duo the subject of intense debate.

Only two French-based players were named in the 37-man squad that will travel Down Under - Bayonne and Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips and Toulon and Wales prop Gethin Jenkins. The latter is not the first choice loose-head at the Stade Mayol and is expected to leave in the summer and the club are expected to grant him an early release so he can join up with the Lions.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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