Surgery all but ends Wilkinson's Lions hopes
June 7, 2013
Jonny Wilkinson appears to have kicked his Lions tour chances into touch by going under the knife to cure a groin problem © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson's hopes of a British & Irish Lions call up appear to have been ended with the news that the fly-half will be sidelined for several weeks following surgery on a groin injury.
Wilkinson turned down an offer to tour with the Lions out of loyalty to his French side Toulon but after completing his club commitments last weekend, he indicated he would welcome a conversation with coach Warren Gatland having previously agreed to be an injury replacement should Ireland's Jonathan Sexton or England's Owen Farrell be sidelined.
However, a fresh approach now appears highly unlikely after he opted to go under the knife.
"I had to go in for a procedure on my groin on Monday that is going to keep me out for a few weeks," Wilkinson told ESPN. "I'd got to a stage where I wasn't able to train anymore and was going from game to game and was suffering on the field because of that. We've also just finished a 48-week season and now I'm looking forward to the other four weeks and trying to rest up so I can do it all again next season."
The news will concern Gatland who was widely expected to call on the European Player of the Year, who steered Toulon to the Heineken Cup crown last month, if injuries forced his hand and also surprise Wallabies coach Robbie Deans who expected Wilkinson to play some part in the tour. Wilkinson has not ruled out the possibility altogether but accepts his chances of being involved in what would be his third Lions tour are remote.
"The difficulty is that I have had the procedure and it had to be done," said Wilkinson, who recently agreed a new one-year deal with Toulon. "I'm now going to try and make sure I get back to some sense of fitness and I am far from 100% at the moment. If that situation did ever come about there would be a discussion to be had, and I would be very proud to be asked, but it is unlikely."
Wilkinson has also offered support to Farrell after the fiery Saracens fly-half was subjected to criticism in the wake of his altercation with Barbarians hooker Schalk Brits last weekend. Wilkinson did not lack for aggression as he carved out his reputation as one of the world's best players and has urged his successor in the England No.10 shirt to harness that "energy".
Jonny Wilkinson is determined to be fit and firing for the new Top 14 season © Getty Images
"It is a hugely difficult," said Wilkinson when asked how he struck a balance between physicality and legality. "I still find that now and you take your time to learn from it. I remember in my younger days when I was perhaps more able to go in for the tackles I wanted to, there were situations when I didn't get the balance right and I found myself creeping over.
"But what is great is that he has got that energy and no matter how you look at it, that energy is about wanting to come out on top, wanting to win and dominate the situation. If you don't have that energy then that is the difficult part, but if you do have it then you can work with it as he will do as he keeps getting better and better as there is no doubt he is going to do.
"He'll find the best way to use it. The guy has boundless energy and that is the part you cannot coach, you can't put that into someone who doesn't have it. You can't say to someone, who doesn't necessarily enjoy the tackling side of things, to go out there and be a different person. But he's got that in his game, he is super-competitive and at the end of the day those are the guys you want beside you."
Gillette's Great Start programme celebrates the role of coaching and encourages the next generation to get into coaching by offering grants. To apply for a coaching grant visit www.facebook.co.uk/GilletteUK
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.