x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Door may still open for Jonny Wilkinson in British & Irish Lions squad

There are always injuries on Lions tours. If either Farrell or Jonathan Sexton get hurt then Wilkinson will have to arise from his sofa and answer the Gat-phone.

Jonny Wilkinson opted out despite being in good form. David Rogers / Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson opted out despite being in good form. David Rogers / Getty Images

Pardon me for asking, Jonny, but what exactly do you know about it? Well, if there are two things Jonny Wilkinson knows about best, they are a) injuries, and b) how to script an ending.

According to Warren Gatland, the British & Irish Lions coach, the Toulon fly-half turned down an approach to join the tour party to Australia this summer.

Chief among Wilkinson's worries was his failing body, which is "just holding together by his fingernails," in Gatland's words. Thus the English No 10 expressed the concern he would be unable to do himself, or the team, justice.

Cobblers, of course, but you could see it coming. He was curiously downbeat in each of the interviews he gave before and after his masterclass in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Saracens on Sunday.

The fact he gave Owen Farrell, his young England successor who has been handed a Lions ticket, the runaround was - in Wilkinson's eyes, at least - neither here nor there.

And yet, the door has been left ajar. "Potentially, if there is an injury later in the tour, he said we could have that conversation later if it does pop up," Gatland said.

There are always injuries on Lions tours. If either Farrell or Jonathan Sexton, the Irishman who is presumably the first-choice No 10, get hurt then Wilkinson will have to arise from his sofa and answer the Gat-phone.

And then what? A cheeky dropped-goal to settle a series win for the Lions in the final Test in Sydney?

Off the wrong foot? Ten years on from That Night in Sydney?

Wilkinson is the great Galactico of rugby who could yet end it like Beckham.

pradley@thenational.ae

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