Wednesday 29 January 2020

Wilkinson listens to his body in making painful call

Gavin Mairs

Lions manager Andy Irvine has revealed that there had been "a very serious probability" that Warren Gatland would have selected three out-halves for the tour of Australia if Jonny Wilkinson had not turned down the offer of a place during a phone call with the head coach on Monday.

Wilkinson's impressive display for Toulon in their Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Saracens 24 hours earlier had thrust the 33-year-old to the top of the agenda of the final selection meeting on the eve of the squad announcement.

Ultimately, though, the prospect of Wilkinson finishing his glittering career with a third Lions tour was decided by the former England out-half, despite all the late clamour for his inclusion from the sidelines.

His commitment to Toulon, who may feature in the French Top 14 final on the day the Lions play their opening tour match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and concerns that his body, after all the injuries it has sustained on the international stage, would not stand up to the rigours of the seven-week, 10-game tour of Australia, prompted Wilkinson to decline Gatland's offer.

"He appreciated the call, but he said he's struggling with his body and managing himself week to week," Gatland said.

"I think physically he would struggle to do a tour."

Wilkinson could yet play a role on the tour as an injury replacement, while Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg will act as the third back-up for the out-half position on the tour.

"We left it open," Gatland added. "He was honest about himself and said: 'I'm hanging on with my fingernails here at the moment and I probably need another operation'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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