British & Irish Lions
Larkham doubts Wilkinson will say no twice
May 2, 2013
A fan at Twickenham last weekend calls for Jonny Wilkinson © Getty Images
Wallabies great Stephen Larkham says he's surprised the British & Irish Lions have named just two fly-halves in their 37-man squad to tour Australia in June and July and doubts Englishman Jonny Wilkinson would refuse a second invitation to play.
Larkham believes Irishman Jonathan Sexton's experience may earn him the nod at five-eighth over England's Owen Farrell, but added he wouldn't be shocked if Wilkinson also got a late call-up for the 10-match tour.
"You'd expect those two to get through and if you did get an injury to those two you'd bring someone else in, but it is a fairly long tour," Larkham said. "You look at the number of backs versus the number of forwards they've picked, and it's disproportionate there. So it wouldn't surprise me if some other backs get called over late and (Wilkinson) could be one of them."
Wilkinson and Larkham went head to head in the first two Test matches of the 2001 Lions series in which the Wallabies won 2-1.
While Wilkinson is most well-known amongst Australians for that 2003 IRB World Cup-winning drop goal, many believe the intercept he threw to winger Joe Roff in the second Test of the 2001 Lions Tour was the turning point for the Wallabies in that series.
Wilkinson reportedly turned down an invitation to join the 2013 Lions Tour when asked by coach Warren Gatland, yet Larkham doubts the 33-year-old Toulon-contracted fly-half would be able to resist one last crack in Australia if injuries presented him with a second chance.
"Maybe they're just waiting to see if there's a final and are going to call him up later," Larkham joked. Initially he might have had that reluctance but the closer it gets, every player that has sort of retired, or announced retirement from international rugby, still has that urge inside them to get back out there and play. It's quite historic, it's not England, it's the British & Irish Lions, the next step up and a big honour."