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Wilkinson return on hold again


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Jonny Wilkinson’s latest return from injury has been delayed by yet another setback.

The England fly-half, whose career has been blighted by a succession of injuries since he kicked the winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final, is currently out of action with a dislocated knee cap sustained while playing for his club Newcastle in October.

However, he recently returned to training and Falcons chief Steve Bates was hopeful of having England’s record points scorer available for Saturday’s Premiership match away to Bath.

But it now looks as if the earliest date for Wilkinson’s return will be the home match against Leicester at Kingston Park a week on Friday.

“Jonny has been training hard, which he needed to do,” Bates said on Wednesday.

“But there has been a slight reaction to that which looks like keeping him out of contention for this weekend.

“To involve him on Saturday would be hasty, but he is very close, and it might well be that he gets a run next Friday at home to Leicester.

“He has had a long lay-off after quite a significant operation, and we just need to go through the whole process of testing it against everything he might encounter in a game to make sure that he is 100 percent.

“This week, we have upped the intensity a little, and the knee has just swollen up a bit as a result.

“I think that is absolutely to be expected – it’s just part of the process of putting the knee through its paces – and we have to accept that it’s not going to be automatically right every time.

“He is making fantastic progress, but we just need to make sure he is ready before we put him back on the field.” Even if fit though, Wilkinson may no longer be an automatic selection as Newcastle’s stand-off.

The north-east side are unbeaten in their last six league matches and much of that run has been attributed to the form in the No 10 shirt of England prospect Tom May, normally a full-back or wing.

Despite his fitness problems, Wilkinson has been linked recently with a potentially lucrative move to French side Toulon at the end of this campaugn even though he has a season left on his Newcastle contract.

“As far as I am concerned, we are in exactly the same position as we have always been with Jonny,” said Bates.

“We’re saying ‘get yourself fit, and concentrate on that. If you or your advisers come to us with something concrete and say this is what’s happening, then we take it from there.’

“But at the moment, I am assuming that isn’t happening and that he will be here next season.”

Sapa-AFP Rugbyweek.com

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