Wilkinson could be set for Twickenham farewell
Jonny Wilkinson could be making his final appearance for England at Twickenham in tomorrow's Rugby World Cup warm-up international against Wales.
Unless the Rugby Football Union loosen their own regulations, Wilkinson will not be ineligible for England selection after the tournament because he has signed a new deal with French club Toulon, and England want to restrict call-ups to home-based players.
"It's a tough one," said Wilkinson, when asked whether he had considered this could be his Twickenham farewell.
"It has been an incredible part of my life to date. To have been on that field so many times and have experienced all the highs and lows has been amazing.
"The thought of not having it any more is not one I wish to consider. It is a difficult situation. You don't want to deal with that kind of emotion."
Wilkinson, who is preparing for his fourth World Cup, remains hopeful that an agreement could be struck with the RFU that designates him a special case.
"I don't like this idea of restriction. I always want to have that open-ended feel to my career. I always like to keep doors open and if I can keep improving, I will keep doing that until someone shuts that door," said Wilkinson.
"If I am playing in a way where people feel I need to be involved then great - if not, I will just be doing it for Toulon."
Wilkinson has been the darling of the Twickenham crowd since making his debut off the bench, as a makeshift wing, against Ireland way back in 1998.
The 32-year-old has been reduced to bench duty again over the last year after losing his place to Toby Flood at the end of the 2010 Six Nations.
But Wilkinson, who is still the fittest member of the England squad, will tomorrow get his chance to start once again in the 10 jersey he has coveted for so long.
Tomorrow will be Wilkinson's 42nd Test appearance on the old cabbage patch and his 91st in total, including six for the British and Irish Lions.
And the prospect of playing for England at Twickenham remains just as exciting for Wilkinson as it ever did.
"It hasn't changed one bit. In fact, as I get older the adage of taking it one game at a time is gaining more and more truth for me," said Wilkinson.
"It is becoming about understanding how special these moments are. You start to see the definite nature of what you are doing. When you are young everything seems so open-ended.
"When you get further down the line you realise it is special and you need to embrace it. I have missed it (starting for England) in recent months.
"All the work, the digging deep and soul searching are for this reason."
While Wilkinson is in the twilight of his international career, he has seen the future and it is shaped like Manu Tuilagi.
The Samoan-born Leicester centre will make his Test debut against Wales and Wilkinson has been mightily impressed with the 20-year-old - comparing him with Jason Robinson and Sonny-Bill Williams.
"Manu has that aura about him, that Jason Robinson uniqueness about his ability to impact on a game," said Wilkinson.
"When someone has that ability as an individual to change a game you know he has to be special. I saw it a bit in Toulon with Sonny-Bill Williams.
"He has the power, the speed and he reads the game incredibly well. His focus is very sharp, he doesn't drop off.
"You'd think he's all about running over people but he has got the footwork and the passing skills and he can kick a ball pretty well.
"You have to sit back and acknowledge that you are seeing the future of the game right here, with this breed of youngster coming through."
© Press Association