JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Wilkinson wants to play for Lions on Australian tour


Mick Cleary in Menton, France

Jonny Wilkinson has declared himself available for next year's tour of Australia.

Jonny Wilkinson has declared himself available for next year's tour of Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Jonny Wilkinson has declared himself available for the Lions' tour to Australia.

Wilkinson was acting in his role as an ambassador for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, laying a commemorative tribute at the grave of rugby founder William Webb Ellis in Menton, on the French Riviera.

He will have only ceremonial duties at the World Cup having retired from international rugby last December. The British and Irish Lions, however, dance to a different beat.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland has already stated that he would be prepared to consider those not playing Test rugby. Wilkinson, who falls into that category, is keen to make up for what he calls one of the biggest disappointments of his sporting life — the Lions' 2-1 series defeat by the Wallabies in 2001.

"There's no way I could say no," said Wilkinson on Wednesday. "In terms of what the Lions represents, everything about it is enormous. It's such a fabulous thing. The joy is that it doesn't have to come with international rugby. You start, you give it everything and you finish. That's the beauty of it. You have got six weeks — get your boots on and get on with it."

There are several hurdles to clear before the dream has a chance of becoming reality, not least of which is the fact that Wilkinson's club, Toulon, is not prepared to release players if the team reaches the knockout stages of the top 14. The top 14 final is on June 1, the same day that the Lions take on the Barbarians in Hong Kong enroute to Australia. That conflict of interests may not arise if Toulon slips up.

Wilkinson acknowledges that he faces enormous competition from those in the thick of it — players such as Toby Flood and Owen Farrell with England; Ireland's Jonny Sexton; Rhys Priestland of Wales and the emerging Scot, Greig Laidlaw.

"I'm a 33-year-old foreign player in France and I'm not England's mainstay fly-half with 40 or 50 caps and leading the team," said Wilkinson. "There's an element of realism for me. There are a lot of good guys doing good things. Selection is out of my control. All I can do is play and see if I fit into those plans."

Wilkinson was unaware that Gatland had been in Toulon last month to check on the availability of players. The New Zealander has no qualms about considering Wilkinson.

"Jonny is still a fine player and he's only 33," said Gatland. "That's not old. The slate is clean for every player who wants to be considered. No one is ruled out. They don't have to be playing for their countries. What is important, though, is that they have to be coming from a side that is performing particularly well."

There is no disputing Wilkinson's credentials in that regard. Toulon reached the final of the Top 14 last season, losing to Toulouse. The team has galloped away in the league this season, winning its first six matches before sending a weakened team to Toulouse last weekend, where it suffered its first defeat. Wilkinson is the heartbeat of the Toulon side.

He will undoubtedly play a major role over the coming months, not only in the domestic championship but notably in the Heineken Cup. If Toulon should reach the later rounds of that competition, then Wilkinson would be parading his wares in an important shop window.

Wilkinson is also spurred on by his own frustrating experiences with the Lions. He missed the tour to South Africa in 2009 through injury, having struggled, as did everyone, four years earlier in New Zealand. He was riven with disappointment when the third Test in 2001 was lost in the last few minutes.

"It's niggling away at me," admitted Wilkinson. "I sat in the dressing room and it felt like a World Cup final loss. So much had gone into it. It's like trying to run a marathon, getting to the 25th mile and someone saying, 'that's it'. To complete one now you have to go right back to the start, knowing how hard the 25 miles were and knowing you could fall over after 10. It's tough."

Wilkinson is so rooted in the moment that he will set little store by what may or may not unfold in June. If he were ever to harbour doubts as to whether he is up to the challenge of the Lions, he could do worse than contact two old sparring partners, Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio, both of whom made the 2005 tour despite having finished their distinguished England careers.

Wilkinson would be in very good company.

The Daily Telegraph, London

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers