British & Irish Lions
Wilkinson ruled himself out of Lions
Tue, 30 Apr 2013 13:23
He (Wilkinson) wasn't available
Jonny Wilkinson ruled himself out of the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, coach Warren Gatland said after unveiling his squad on Tuesday.
However, the New Zealander said flyhalf Wilkinson, who a decade ago kicked the match-winning drop-goal that saw England defeat Australia in a thrilling World Cup final in Sydney, could yet be called up as a replacement.
Wilkinson's masterly display in kicking all of Toulon's points in their 24-12 European Cup semifinal win over Saracens at Twickenham on Sunday led to renewed speculation as to whether he would be selected for a third Lions tour.
But Gatland named current England pivot Owen Farrell and Ireland's Jonathan Sexton as his two flyhalves - with Wilkinson having endorsed the duo immediately after his man-of-the-match effort for Toulon at Twickenham
"He (Wilkinson) wasn't available," Gatland told reporters. "He said he really appreciated the call but that he was committed to Toulon and would not be able to travel with the squad."
France's Top 14 final takes place on the same day as the Lions play the Barbarians in a tour opener in Hong Kong on June 1 and Wilkinson, whose Toulon club are already in the semifinals, could find himself required for the climax of the French domestic season.
Wilkinson's Toulon's team-mate Gethin Jenkins was included after being cleared by his club, for whom the Welsh prop is not a first choice player.
Gatland, asked if he had called Wilkinson to include him in his squad, replied: "I wouldn't have made the call otherwise. But we wanted the whole squad to be able to play in Hong Kong and he couldn't make that commitment."
Gatland also suggested Wilkinson himself had indicated he had doubts about his ability to last a Lions tour.
"He said he was struggling with his body and managing things week to week and I think he'd struggle to get through a seven-week tour."
But Gatland did say Wilkinson, who turns 34 next month, could yet be included as a possible injury replacement.
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