British & Irish Lions 2013
Wilkinson ready to roar for Lions
October 4, 2012
Former England international Jonny Wilkinson is currently starring for Toulon in the Top 14 © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson has revealed he would be happy to end his international exile for the British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia next year.
The Rugby World Cup-winning fly-half brought the curtain down on his 97-Test England career following last year's global showpiece but Lions coach Warren Gatland has declared an interest in securing his services for the trip Down Under.
"There's no way I could say no," the 33-year-old told the Daily Mail. "In terms of what that represents, everything about it, it's enormous - such a fabulous thing.
"The joy is the fact it doesn't have to come with international rugby. You start, you give it everything and you finish and say thanks very much. For me, that is the beauty of it. It doesn't matter where you come from. You have got six weeks, get your boots on and get into it."
Wilkinson cemented his status as one of the world's best players on the Lions' last visit to Australia in 2001 and the scars of their narrow 2-1 series defeat continue to motivate him. "It is niggling away at me," he said. "In 2001, I sat in the changing-room after the third Test and it felt like a World Cup Final loss. As disappointments go, it was up there, definitely.
"So much had gone into getting to a position of having a shot at it. It's like trying to run a marathon, getting to the 25th mile and someone saying, "That's it". To complete one you need to go right back to the start, knowing how hard the 25 miles were and knowing you could fall after 10 miles next time, like we did in 2005.
"Australia were on fire at the time and that first Test was incredible. The second Test was incredible up to a point and the third Test was just a great game. Knowing we had a shot, the disappointment was ridiculous.'
Gatland is unlikely to be short of contenders for the playmaker role with the likes of Ireland's Jonny Sexton, Wales' Rhys Priestland and the England duo of Toby Flood and Owen Farrell all boasting strong claims - a fact not lost on Wilkinson.
"It's difficult for Warren Gatland," he added. "People are going to ask him questions and he's going to respond with respect. I'm focused on having a massive season at Toulon, but selection is out of my control. I appreciate I'm playing in France - not so much 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.
"I'm a 33-year-old foreign player in France," he added. "I'm not England's mainstay fly-half, leading the team. All I can do is play and see if I fit into those 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."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.