Wilkinson keen for Lions call-up
June 2, 2013
Toulon's Delon Armitage consoles captain Jonny Wilkinson after their defeat to Castres in the Top 14 finale © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson is ready to join up with the British & Irish Lions in Australia after completing his club commitments with Toulon.
The former England fly-half turned down an offer to tour with the Lions out of loyalty to his French club but having failed to propel his side to a rare Heineken Cup-Top 14 double with underdogs Castres claiming a 19-14 victory in the title-decider at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night, Wilkinson insisted he was open to another call from Lions boss Warren Gatland.
"If Warren wants to call me about joining up with the Lions, I will happily have that conversation with him," said Wilkinson, who clearly took in the Lions' opening victory over the Barbarians in Hong Kong earlier in the day.
"The Lions did well today and I'm going to need a couple of days just to assess where I am. It always feels worse when you've just lost a big game. And I don't even know if Warren still wants me, but I'm certainly not going to rule anything out."
Gatland only has two recognised fly-half options in his current 37-man squad - Ireland's Jonathan Sexton, the favourite to claim the No.10 jersey for the three-Test series against Australia later this month, and England's Owen Farrell.
Both players featured against the Barbarians with Farrell attracting criticism for some aspects of his game - including a spat with Barbarians hooker Schalk Brits - while Sexton appeared to struggle from the kicking tee.
With Scotland's Stuart Hogg pinpointed as a further option at No.10 and Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny set to be the Lions' first-choice kicker, Gatland appears unlikely to call on Wilkinson unless forced to, with the Kiwi recently commenting, "If we pick up an injury on tour, then maybe there's a conversation to be had."
Wilkinson was named the European Player of the Year last month and should he earn a late call-up it would be his third Lions tour having previously featured in 2001 and 2005.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'