British & Irish Lions
McGeechan expects Wilkinson to miss out on Lions
ESPN Staff
April 25, 2013

British & Irish Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan expects Jonny Wilkinson to miss out on a place in the squad for the Australia tour.

Lions coach Warren Gatland will name his squad for the tour on Tuesday and is widely expected to go with Ireland's Jonathan Sexton and England's Owen Farrell as their two fly-halves with Wilkinson not included.

The ex-England fly-half has been in fantastic form for Toulon this season but with the Top 14 final being played on the same day as the Lions' opener against Barbarians in Hong Kong, there is a chance Wilkinson would not be able to link-up with the squad until they are in Australia.

Gatland has previously suggested he will only pick players who can commit for the entire tour and McGeechan, who has played and coached on seven Lions tours, reckons Wilkinson could miss out.

"He won't have the chances to be really part of the build-up," McGeechan said. "In 2009 we didn't say we were preparing for each team, we were preparing for South Africa five weeks down the line.

"You use the five weeks as preparation and you've got everybody involved in that. If you've got players missing for two or three weeks out of that process, then it becomes very difficult. So I think purely from a practical point of view it's difficult."

In 2009 McGeechan opted for Paul O'Connell as his skipper and although the Munster lock is in the frame to continue the honour this summer, the bookmakers' favourite is Sam Warburton.

O'Connell has barely played any rugby this year due to injury but was named Man of the Match in Munster's Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Harlequins and McGeechan believes his recent form has been enough to propel him back into the reckoning.

"It's going to be an interesting one," McGeechan said of the captaincy conundrum. "I think Warren will be looking at Sam Warburton because he's worked with him. He knows him well, he's had him as his captain in the World Cup with Wales and you do have to have that captain-coach relationship. Paul O'Connell was outstanding against Quins and he's the sort of player who brings out that passion and edge in the toughest of environments.

"It was almost his will that drove Munster to a win against a team that nobody probably expected them to beat. The plus is that he's hardly played any rugby this year so he's going to be fresh and, if he's 100% fit, then he's a good person to have on the tour because he understands the Lions and what they're about.

"He was a great captain in 2009 and, whether he's captain or not, I'd have him on the tour because you need people like that in the group, keeping the right focus at the right time and saying the right things at the right time."

Australia great Michael Lynagh, who played for the Wallabies in their 2-1 series defeat to Finlay Calder's 1989 Lions, believes O'Connell is the outstanding candidate. "I guess the favourite is Warburton, but for me it has to be Paul O'Connell," he said. "From a political point of view you have Scottish, Welsh and English represented in the management and no Irish. Appointing O'Connell would balance things up."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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