British and Irish Lions: Jonny Wilkinson hints at defeat in Australia bid
Sky Sports' James Pearson has spoken with Toulon star Jonny Wilkinson on his chances of featuring in this summer's British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.
By James Pearson
Last Updated: 07/06/13 9:31am
The former England international, who helped his Top 14 club to Heineken Cup glory this season, has proved that despite being 34 years old, he remains one of the game's best.
Wilkinson was omitted from Warren Gatland's original party because of his end-of-season club commitments with Toulon, although he later admitted an interest in playing if anyone picked up an injury.
The former Newcastle Falcons man was unable to make it a double this season after Toulon lost the Top 14 final to Castres on Saturday and he has now undergone an operation to resolve a groin issue.
Wilkinson must completely rest for two weeks and the situation England's World Cup-winning hero envisaged when the squad was announced in May has transpired in that he is indeed lacking fitness when it matters.
"It (the operation) puts it quite heavily into a 'less likely' bracket. I've said all along that I just want to be 100 per cent fit and keen to go for it," he told Sky Sports.
"A month ago [when the squad was announced] I was in a different situation where I was fearing that, if the season went as well as it did, I didn't know what sort of condition I would be in.
"It hasn't surprised me I'm now at that point and I'm a long way from 100 per cent. I know from previous experience that if you go on the Lions, you can't be any less than fully fit.
"On the flip side, the idea of the Lions and the possibility of touring has been a huge inspiration for me. It has driven me on, but it has been a long time since I've been able to function like I did when I was younger.
"I have been very positive about it but at the moment I'm looking at getting my body right, and I have to be realistic and say it's looking unlikely.
"Basically, what I'm saying is that I've had the procedure, and I'm looking after my body. I'm really keen to have discussions [with Gatland], but the last thing I want is for anyone to get injured anyway. It's a great squad and I want them to do well.
"The Lions need guys who are at the top of the top, and I need to ask the question as to whether I'm able to give that - as does anyone else that might get the chance to go out to Australia.
"Right now, I'm not involved in the squad, and while it would be fabulous if there is any discussion to be had, I do see it as unlikely."
Wilkinson prolonged his illustrious career by another season in April when he signed a 12-month extension with Toulon and he has confirmed the club based in the south of France will be his last.
However, Wilkinson has no plans to walk away from the game when he eventually hangs up his boots, confirming he would love to pass on his experience through coaching.
"Toulon will be my last club for sure, because I believe in building," he said.
"Playing and coaching is about getting to know people, and to be able to do that you need to spend time. I love the place and what it's all about. I love the supporters, the team, the area, the coaches, everything about it.
"It will be my last club, and in terms of playing on, I have the same thoughts that I have towards the Lions. It's very unlikely that I see myself going on beyond this year.
"With what I've been through in my career, and the influences of [former Newcastle fitness coach and mentor] Steve Black and [kicking coach] Dave Alred, the individual side of skills coaching and mental approach - the emotion side of it - those angles inspire me enormously. I have a huge enthusiasm for that kind of coaching.
"I would like to think that everything happens for a reason and all the stuff I've done, in terms of work off the field and my preparation for games, is something I can research further and hopefully benefit other people and help them take their game where they want to take it."
Wilkinson has enjoyed great club success with Toulon since leaving Newcastle although it has been suggested that he should have departed sooner.
The fly-half won 91 caps for England and insists it benefited him to go through the hard times with the north-east club to fully appreciate what he has now.
"I learned so much from Newcastle, and that's the bit you can't put a value on. I don't think I'd be able to do what I do without going through the hard times at Newcastle.
"Also, I always ask myself what I can do for a club, as opposed to what the club can do for me. You never know how important experiences will be for the rest of your career."
Wilkinson has played rugby union throughout his professional career, but he has revealed he had the opportunity to link up with Super League club Wigan Warriors prior to joining Toulon.
The veteran is fond of the other code and saw the chance to join Wigan as an 'amazing opportunity', however, it was one he had to reject as he did not want to run the risk of sustaining an injury playing an unfamiliar sport.
"There was an offer before I joined Toulon to go and cut my teeth with Wigan for a month," he said.
"I'm not sure whether I would have been just training, playing lower games, or to do anything, but I thought it was an amazing opportunity. I love rugby league - Wigan is my team.
"The squad they've got is incredible at the minute and I wish them all the best. I would have loved to do it but, at the time, my knee injury was only just getting back and, having just signed for Toulon, I had to make sure I respected them by turning up in the best shape possible.
"Getting injured doing something in a game I didn't know so well would have been dangerous."