British & Irish Lions
Wilkinson offers so much, says Giteau
April 29, 2013
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson slots a kick against Saracens, Saracens v Toulon, Heineken Cup semi-final, Twickenham, April 28, 2013
Jonny Wilkinson has scored all of Toulon's points in their Heineken quarter-final and semi-final victories © PA Photos

Matt Giteau has no doubt that his Toulon team-mate Jonny Wilkinson should be part of the British & Irish Lions squad for June's Australia tour.

Press Association Sport understands that fly-half Wilkinson will miss out on selection when Lions head coach Warren Gatland names his 38-man group on Tuesday.

Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell are believed to be Gatland's chosen ones at No. 10, although Wilkinson showed in Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Saracens at Twickenham that he remains a match-winner of the highest calibre.

His 24-point haul from seven penalties and a drop-goal guided Toulon into their first Heineken final - and he produced it in front of Gatland, who was among a 25,000 crowd.

Toulon, though, are also likely to reach the French Top 14 final on June 1, which clashes with the Lions' tour opener against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, for which Wilkinson would be unavailable.

"Even if they (Lions) don't see him as the best No. 10, I just think there is so much he can add to the group," former Australia Test star Giteau said. "Games like a Heineken semi-final are quite similar to Test matches, with the physicality and tempo of the game. It's almost like a chess game. You have got to take your points when they are on offer, play field position, play smart. "Jonny looks after himself. I have worked and played with a lot of great players, and not taking anything away from their work ethic, but no-one works harder than Jonny. He is a perfectionist, he is in the game for the right reasons, and while he still loves the game he puts performances like that on the field."

Giteau played a part in 33-year-old Wilkinson recently choosing to extend his stay at Toulon into next season.

"Jonny's biggest fear was that he felt he was holding the group back, so I made it quite clear and told him that my rugby was improving and other guys around us as well," he added. "And while it was like that, he was still adding to the group. I just convinced him of it. As far as rugby goes, Jonny Wilkinson is right up there as one of the greats who has played the game. I want to hate the guy! He has knocked Australia out of two World Cups, but he is just too nice. It would be great for Australia as well if he went on the Lions tour. They would love to see him go back. You have got to respect him for what he's done, and Australia certainly isn't bitter in that way."

Wilkinson, who has featured as a player on two Lions tours, retired from Test rugby in 2011 after winning 91 England caps, but he has continued to be an integral part of Toulon's rise as a major European force.

Wilkinson scored all of Toulon's points in their Heineken quarter-final and semi-final victories this season against Leicester and Saracens, respectively, amassing a total of 13 penalties and two drop-goals.

Toulon will now meet their fellow French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne in the final at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on May 18.


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