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Wilkinson given Lions hope

13th December 2012 14:07

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Jonny Wilkinson Sale2

In contention: Jonny Wilkinson

Toulon and former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson could still be involved with the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia, according to Rob Howley.

Wilkinson retired from Test rugby following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but his impressive form for the Top 14 side has led to many calls for him to tour with the Lions next year, 12 years on from his first Lions tour to Australia back in 2001.

Despite the Top 14 Final falling on the same day as the Lions' first fixture against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, Lions assistant coach Howley has not ruled out Wilkinson's inclusion.

"He (Wilkinson) is playing in a good team at Toulon, who are going pretty well in the Heineken Cup, and Warren has said that all players who are in contention will be looked at," said Howley.

"I'm sure Toulon will be in the quarter-finals and they are the games you need to be playing - quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, if you're not playing international rugby. We have to see the players under pressure in those sorts of situations."

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton and England's Toby Flood and Owen Farrell are the current front-runners for the role, with Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland now expected to miss out after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the Heineken Cup last weekend.

"I enjoyed Sexton's performances during the autumn series, and the likes of Owen (Farrell) and Toby (Flood). They are all different styles of 10 and there will be a lot of analysis on those players in the next three or four months," added Howley.

"It's competition, and that's what brings the best out of them. None of them have been on a Lions tour, so it will be interesting to watch them under the microscope during a Six Nations, in a Lions year. Particularly as a No 10, a key ingredient in performances is how they react under pressure."