Dubai: Former England lock Martin Bayfield believes a British and Irish Lions call-up for Johnny Wilkinson is unlikely, despite coach Warren Gatland saying everyone will be considered for next summer’s tour of Australia.
Toulon fly-half, Wilkinson, 33, retired from international rugby after the 2011 World Cup with 1179 points from 91 caps for England and 67 points in six Lions appearances.
Having scored the winning drop goal in the 2003 World Cup, Wilkinson still holds a talismanic influence over the game, but 45-year-old Bayfield, who played 34 times for England, earning three Lions caps, believes the legend is well back in the pecking order for Gatland’s Lions considerations. “It’s not as though we’re short on fly-halfs,” said Bayfield at last Thursday’s Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens Long Lunch. “We have a lot of quality. If guys who haven’t yet been capped [for their national team] have been called up in the past there’s no reason someone who’s retired from international rugby can’t make the Lions squad. I just feel there are three or four fly-halfs you’re comfortable will be ahead of Wilkinson.
Gatland said on his appointment earlier this month: “He’s [Wilkinson] still a fine player and only 33. That’s not old. For me everyone is in contention. The slate is clean for every player who wants to be considered.
“They don’t have to be playing for their countries. What is important is that they are playing well for a club doing well at the top level – a side challenging to win the Heineken Cup. You need that comparison to how close a player is to international form.”