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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jonny Wilkinson keeps hope alive for 2013 British & Irish Lions tour

As you have probably heard, Jonny Wilkinson has said that he is definitely interested in heading over to Australia on the British & Irish Lions tour next year. He is hoping to contribute towards making right the wrongs of the last time they played there, in 2001.

Toulon flyhalf Wilkinson spoke to Sky Sports about his ambitions to go on tour, and said that despite having retired from England rugby, he would love to play for the Lions one more time.

Like Brian O'Driscoll, whose try against Munster was featured yesterday, Wilkinson will be 34 years-old by the time the ten-match tour rolls around next year. Age isn't a factor in his mind though, and if he is fit and playing well, he'd love to get stuck in if selected.

"There's no way I could say no to the Lions. In terms of what it represents, everything about it, a Lions tour is enormous. A fabulous thing. For me, that's the beauty of it - it doesn't matter where you've come from, it's a case of 'We've got six weeks, get your boots on and get into it.'"

Lions coach Warren Gatland has stated that its a clean slate for everyone. If Wilkinson is playing well, he could get selected. The flyhalf is aware of that, but is keeping his feet on the ground.

"I appreciate I'm playing in France - not out of sight out of mind, but a little bit further away - and there are a lot of guys doing a lot of good things in home nations rugby at the moment," he said.

"There's an element of realism for me. I'm a 33-year-old foreign player playing in France. I'm not England's mainstay fly-half after 40 or 50 caps and leading the team.

"All I can do is play and see if I fit into their plans. If I don't I'll just have to make the best of what I've got here which, let's face it, is good enough."

- Who would you pick at ten ahead of, or behind, Wilkinson in your 2013 British & Irish Lions squad?

Credit: The Rugby Club on Sky Sports

Posted at 8:05 am | 32 comments

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Jason Robinson classic for the Lions 2001

Ronan O'Gara pummeled by Duncan McRae - Lions Tour 2001

Viewing 32 comments

BoGo October 11, 2012 12:54 pm

I would pick James Hook ahead of Jonno... But Jonno would make it on the squad due to his experience and ability to guide the ship through rough waters. Still a sound defender too.

When is the IRB or SANZAR+UAR going to have a Southern Barbarians go up to face the home nations? Would that even be a contest? You would have to re-jiggle some of the timings as the World Cup happens every 4 years in between Lions tours... Think of the devastation...

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stroudos October 11, 2012 1:38 pm

You must be joking. Talk about a one-sided contest. Although I suppose you could look at it as a way to dilute NZ's potency...

A fairer contest would be an Americas touring side, visiting Europe one year and the Pacific Islands four years after that.

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 3:35 pm

BoGo, are there any rules on who you can pick in the B&I Lions? For instance it's Warren Gatland leading it this year I hear...So if he thinks the sun shines out of the Welsh behind, could he in theory just pick an all Welsh Squad? Or does there have to be a certain number from each nation?

I'm just thinking that a SH touring team would be a good idea if there was a "jumbled up" rule, so it basically isn't an NZ touring side under the name of "SH Lions" or something like that...

I think it would be a good idea.. I can't say I have been an avid lions follower at all, but from what I see you get a good collection of players, but they aren't a single unit, they still have a sort of "flair" about them. I have never understood why B&I Lions fans have thought the team is the bee's knees, and why many SH supporters feel the team and it's fans are under the guise that it's "unbeatable"... I've never considered it to be a well groomed team due to it's nature, to me it is very much a "slightly bettered" groomed Barbarians team. I understand there is a lot of pride and prestigiousness involved and in theory it should be a strong team, but you can never (imo) get 4 nations to throw in a handful of players and get a team that will easily overcome a team that is together week in week out, such as an International team...

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 3:37 pm

Sorry that was supposed to be to Stroudos and BoGo..

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stroudos October 11, 2012 1:35 pm

If I were Gatland, I'd take Wilko, no doubt. Thanks to Rugbydump, some of us in England still get the chance to see him play now and again. In most of the footage I've seen over the last few months he's been playing better than ever.

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Guy October 11, 2012 1:49 pm

I really can't remember if any of the 4 nations fly halves stood out last Six Nations. So I guess not. And there is no denying that Wilkinson, in any role, would add a lot of value on a lot of points to the Lions squad.

Based on that I would probably still go for Jonny at the moment. But lets see what happens in the next Six Nations first though.

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Le Brack October 11, 2012 2:04 pm

I'm really not happy with BoGo's suggestion of playing Martin Johnson at fly-half for the lions. That's asking too much even of him..... Wilko would seem a better option?

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 3:37 pm

I don't see the resemblance...

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Guy October 11, 2012 5:04 pm

Jonno used to be the nickname of Martin Johnson. He was an absolute lousy flyhalf..;-)

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 8:36 pm

Ah yes.... all makes sense now... lmao, could you actually imagine Martin Johnson in a 10 shirt! Would probably be so damn hilarious!

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Caz October 11, 2012 2:14 pm

Wilko might have to be in the squad because he such a solid defender and puts everything into it. However by doing this he normally Injures himself!

I would play Johnnie Sexton/Rhys Priestland behind Wilko because when he Kicks you know it going to go over...not James Hook, never in my life have I seen a more boring player at 10!

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poccio October 11, 2012 2:20 pm

I love johnny, but i think sexton will be ahead of him...if he's fit he should defo be on the tour though

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Leadbitter October 11, 2012 2:50 pm

Hopefully Gatalnd will take him.
What he has done as a player has nothing to do with it in my view, its just a simple question; Presently, which Britsih Fly Half is on form and playing well at the top level? Dan Bigger would be my first choice for the test 10 jersey if he continues with his brilliant start to the season, certainly outshining Priestland. But, I think Wilkinson is playing better than Flood / Farrell / O'Gara so warrents a place. Freddie Burns would be a good gamble but I dont think he has done enough in time to get selected.

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Ben Jeffrey October 11, 2012 3:38 pm

Wilkinson must be taken, he would play a massive role within the squad along with BOD (If he is selected) They're two very influential, and still very good players who could go over there and control the matches. With the forwards we could put together, I can see a series win down under.

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 3:43 pm

From what I have seen, I think Sexton would be a better option, with JW in reserve, or perhaps mix it up between the 2. I think it would be important to see how the respective fly halves perform in the 6N next year, but as it stands I think JW has a very good chance, and out of the current international fly halves I think Sexton is the better of the lot.

I think during the SH tours I remember a lot of people commenting about a hype surrounding Rhys Priestland and it being a bit overplayed, and perhaps not justified. I wonder if perhaps he will get a look in because of Gatland picking the team.

How is the Scottish Flyhalf performing?

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Simon501 October 11, 2012 4:41 pm

I think it is a ridiculous suggestion that Wilkinson should be taken. If he can't make the England squad, why would he make the Lions squad. If Priestland can get back on form, there isn't another fly-half in the Northern Hemisphere that can get a back line moving like him. We're playing Australia, and we should have the beating of them in the pack, though the back row will be an interesting battle with Australia's potentially having more of a formed and on-form unit there.

At 10, it has to be either Sexton or Priestland at the moment, though Farrell could break in if he keeps playing like he is. As a fan though, you have to hope for someone that can get a back line moving, just like Steven Jones did in 2009.

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JumpingPagan October 11, 2012 6:25 pm

Simon, he retired from the England team due to not enjoying the atmosphere of it - said it was negative and bringing out the worst of him as a player and that he wanted to be able to focus on his strong play at Toulon.

And the fact that Priestland is the best fly-half the North have got is pretty sad unfortunately as he was quite off. I still rate Flood over him, but Sexton as long as he is in Leinster mode and not Ireland mode, is number one. I'd say bring Wilko, see what he does in the warm up games and have him as a closing 10 in the tests. He has an awesome track record in Australia - remember June 2010? Kicking the winning penalty for England to beat the Aussies 21-20? Then of course there is 2003. If the Lions are down or tied with under 5 to go, what other fly half in the home nations would you trust more to make the tackles and kick the points?

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Newfie October 11, 2012 5:29 pm

Wilko will go but he won't start. Sexton is playing the best rugby of his career . Priestland has a shot if he gets out of this slump

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04charlescox October 11, 2012 6:50 pm

100% take him. Although he may no longer be the player he once was, he is still capable of inspiring others around him on and off the field. Don't forget as well that the aussies still fear him from his glory days.

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NathanJ October 11, 2012 7:25 pm

you all obviously no nothing about rugby!!!
on Form, Ability, Talent and experience
1st choice - Dan Biggar (the best current outside half in europe)
2nd choice - Rhys Priestland (On his day the best ball flowing 10 in the world)
3rd choice - Owen Farrell (Big talent with alot of ability, not as good as people say yet)

Johnny Wilkinson - (Only plays well behind a good scrum, age is a factor and big difference from club level to international level, Considering hasnt been in the england squad since 2010

Jonathon Sexton - (Hot and Cold, Outstanding Club player and a dissmal International Player!! and considering the LIONS is a Big step up again from international level)

Ronan O'Gara - (the worst defensive back in world rugby, hasnt been in form for about 2years now and ageing)

gregg laidlaw - (Would be my 4th choice number 10, such a verstaile player and can play either 9 or 10)

Lets be honest the Lions Match squad is gonna be packed with Welsh stars (the best british side for the last 18months) one or two english players ( Farrell maybe and Dan Cole on the bench) Just Sean O'Brien from Ireland!!!

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 10:58 pm

....wait this is a rugby website?!?!!?!?! What the hell... ?

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Kid October 12, 2012 12:01 pm

Dan Biggar! Yeah, I'd say the aussie's will be quaking in their boots at the thought of Dan Biggar, with his mere 4 international starts (3 against minnows) and his shocking heineken cup form. Pro12 form is irrelevant.

How can you dismiss Sexton due to his international form and then claim Biggar is number 1 whilst completely unproven at international level?

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Reality October 12, 2012 7:26 pm

NathanJ, I'm sorry, but my eyes must be deceiving me. Are you actually saying that Dan Biggar is the best outhalf in Europe? Has he ever even played for Wales? I don't think playing half decent matches in the Pro 12 is enough to pronounce him the best in Europe. And Rhys Priestland? Owen Farrell? They're both extremely average. Priestland had a few decent matches in the World Cup, and nothing more. Farrell has played what? A handfull of matches? And he's been fairly average overall from what I remember. Then you complain that O'Gara is defensively frail, and say that Laidlaw is your 4th choice? He's nearly as bad as O'Gara. There were a bunch of tries in high-profile matches last season that were a direct result of his inability to tackle properly.

And you don't rate Sexton? He is by an absolute mile the best in Europe. I mean he can do it all, and do it all well. He tackles well, kicks out of hand, from the ground, passes better than any outhalf, is fast. What else do you want him to do?

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Ottawa Rugger October 11, 2012 7:51 pm

Tough choice here for Gatland. Fly-half is surely a position where there are many contenders, like Sexton and Flood. But it's hard to deny that Wilkinson would bring a lot of heart and a lot of experience (not just as a player but as a Lion). I'd even go so far as to include him on the list of potential captains because for the Lions I think you need to avoid naming one of the captains of the national sides as that could potentially lead to antagonism between his charges. Wilkinson would likely to be respected enough by all players to lead without that baggage. His distance from playing for England might actually help him in this respect.

So in conclusion, I'd say to Gatland: Bring Wilkinson, but only if you're prepared to make good use of him. Don't bring him along as a token. He can offer more to the Lions, not just as a fly-half

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Dave October 11, 2012 9:08 pm

Pretzel, its the bees knees for its history. In the past a SH team could do a tour and get a lot of cash to pay for it as the home nations are close and stadiums would sell out to fund it etc. The home nations couldn't get a full team due to work commitments etc. The first British Isles tour wasn't even official, it was to make money.
The teams are picked on merit, generally they get beaten: 12 series lost and 7 won since 1950 I think. It's a throwback to the amateur days and a great show case for the tradition of the sport. Nobody thinks its unbeatable, actually the opposite for the reasons you stated, fans and players know this. To win a series with the lions is special because its test standard with the guys you play against at test level, also as Tana said, not everyone gets to play against the lions and its been going since 1888. Its only played every 12 years now, that's an entire career. I think its seen as the ultimate achievement in B&I, as you are fighting for a place against your peers from the rest of B&I.

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Pretzel October 11, 2012 11:27 pm

Thank you for the information. I have never "sniffed" at the Lions, it's nothing something I take any interest in mocking, I think it is a brilliant concept and I think it is something which should be continued. I would just like to see a SH equivalent. I know it won't have the same historical value, but hey, might as well start making history..

I suppose with the Lions tour "unbeatable comment" I was referring to the last tour in SA, where there were comments regarding it being "the best of the NH" or at least the best of B&I, and I recall a lot of the SA comments were regarding how the best could not stand up to them... although I assume this is just common place with the Saffas! lol..

It is crazy how it is every 4 years though, and as you said 12 years between facing the same team again... Actually there is something interesting, have there been many players that have faced all 3 nations? I thought BOD or JW had, but I see that they have both played 2001, 2005 but missed 2009...

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LeinsterBlue October 12, 2012 2:40 pm

That's just normal pre-game banter, Saffers surprised me, they actually boo'd their own players in Pretoria who were from the Bulls rivals... great laugh all the same.

Jeremy Guscott, Martin Johnson, Will Greenwood, Fran Cotton, Gareth Edwards, Syd Millar are the ones that spring to mind, and obviously Willie John McBride with 5 tours (Mr. 99 call in SA back in the day). Dallaglio, Brian O'driscoll did actually if you include the 3 mins against NZ. Martyn Williams.

I think there's quite a few more as well, probably gnarly forwards.

One thing I forgot to say is that the craic for the fans is class, the sessions are insane and the locals really go for it, I went to SA (O'Gara fecked up 2nd test) , brother did NZ Tour, sister oz tour before that and a lot of my mates have gone on 4 or 5 tours. As an experience there is nothing like it, 1 month of pre-match pints and post match excess, 3 games a week, and great friends made. Its worth it if you can get the time off work.

http://www.lionsrugby.com/home.php

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Pretzel October 12, 2012 7:12 pm

Sorry I'm talking out my ass there, You're right BOD did play in all 3, as you say if I include his short lived stint against the Kiwi's, I remember seeing videos of him in a disagreement with some of the bok players!

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Canadian content October 12, 2012 12:37 am

Sexton beat the boks with his foot before so I don't agree that he's abysmal at test level. He had a stormer against the abs.

Biggar, priest land and laidlaw(for the experience) have to go. Farrell is overrated.

I'd still take Johnny to teach and step up if the youngsters fail.

He's been there In the pressure situations.

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Colombes October 12, 2012 1:06 pm

i have a huge respect for Wilko but i don't think he's got the same impact on the game than few years ago.
Guys like Sexton, Farrell, Flood and Laidlaw are more possible "lions"
He has diversified his gameplay in France and he still has his wonderful foot and a good vista but his physic have dicreased. A Hcup victory with Toulon in the 2 years could be a more "reasonnable" objective ;)

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NathanJ October 12, 2012 7:38 pm

Lets be honest here the matchday squad is gonna be 90% of welsh players!!!! REALITY

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Humpers23 October 12, 2012 8:21 pm

Wilkinson should 100% be on the plane to Oz next year if fit and playing well at Toulon. He would bring so much experience, both on and off the field, that it would be a crime to ignore because of factors such as his age! 34 is not that old for a player, especially on who has played maybe 60% of the most other current 34 year olds, due to his time off through injury.

Another factor would be the massive psychological hit it would be to Oz knowing he was on the plane, and if he were to be involved in the tests. Lets not forgot Australia and Jonny have got a lot of history, which definitely benefits Jonny and not Oz.........

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