x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Wilkinson to remain loyal to Newcastle

Jonny Wilkinson, the England World Cup-winning fly-half, will resist the advances of Racing Metro and remain with Newcastle next season.

Jonny Wilkinson, the England World Cup-winning fly-half, will resist the advances of Racing Metro and remain with Newcastle next season, according to director of rugby Steve Bates. The big-spending Paris side had earmarked Wilkinson as their top target for next season and hoped to convince him to become the latest England international to cross the Channel. But Bates, who watched the injured Wilkinson's latest understudy, Tom May, contribute nine points to Saturday's 19-13 Guinness Premiership victory at Northampton, is confident Newcastle's star No 10 will stay at Kingston Park. "At the moment we are very optimistic about that," said Bates. "He is under contract for next season and, as far as I'm concerned, that's what we're expecting to happen."

Steve Meehan, the Bath coach, was frustrated by captain Alex Crockett's sending-off, as his club came away from a thrilling match against table-toppers Gloucester without anything to show for their efforts. Gloucester consolidated their lead at the top with a 36-27 home victory, sealed by former Recreation Ground favourite Olly Barkley's two penalties in the last 10 minutes. Gloucester grabbed four tries through centre James Simpson- Daniel (two), wing Charlie Sharples and scrum-half Rory Lawson, against two touchdowns by hooker Rob Hawkins and one by wing Andrew Higgins for Bath.

But Bath were hampered by Crockett's dismissal, for persistent offside, and then tackling Sharples without the ball. "I was angry, particularly with the first one," said Meehan. "I don't know how they got that ruling of him being offside. I know the team were on two warnings - but whether it was a mistake or not, I don't know. "The call came from the assistant referee. It is a big call and it's quite clear on the video that there were a lot of players further up the field than Crockett - so how do we come up with that one? It's an interesting decision."

Worcester coach Mike Ruddock described centre Alex Grove's first Premiership start as "a dream debut" after the youngster scored the only try of the match in the 13-12 win over London Wasps at Sixways. Wasps' latest defeat came without director of rugby Ian McGeechan and head coach Shaun Edwards, who were unable to travel back from Paris, where they had watched France's Six Nations win over Wales on Friday.

* With agencies