| 1.8°C Dublin

Gatland: Wilkinson turned down a place in my Lions squad

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has revealed that Jonny Wilkinson declined his invitation to tour Hong Kong and Australia, but refused to rule out his participation at a later date in the event of injury.

Impressed by Wilkinson's masterclass in Toulon's Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Saracens, Gatland rang the 33-year-old former England fly-half yesterday to offer him a place in the squad.

While grateful to have received the call, Wilkinson responded that his club commitments in France and the deteriorating state of his fitness prevented him from accepting.

"I asked Jonny if he could tour and he said he wasn't available. I wouldn't have made the phone call if it wasn't to offer him a place on the tour," Gatland said.

"I told him that we wanted everyone on the tour to be on the plane to Hong Kong and he couldn't make that commitment because he's committed to Toulon.

"He appreciated the call, but he said he's struggling with his body and managing himself week to week. I think physically he would struggle to do a tour.

"He was honest about himself and said 'I'm hanging on with my fingernails here at the moment and I probably need another operation'."

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell of England are the recognised fly-halves among the 37, but an injury to one of them could result in Wilkinson joining the tour at a later date.

"We asked him about what happens if there is an injury later in the tour and he said 'we can have that conversation later if that crops up'," Gatland told Sky Sports News.

"Having someone potentially of that experience if we have an injury....he might be available."

PA Media