Wilkinson eyes Six Nations return

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Wilkinson eyes Six Nations return

Injury-plagued flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson says he’s weeks away from a return and has ambitions of playing for England in the Six Nations.

Wilkinson is currently working through a rehabilitation programme with a knee specialist in Vermont, USA, and will return to England on Friday. He predicted that he’ll return to club rugby within “a few weeks”, and while he was keen to pull on an England shirt once more, he stressed that his immediate focus was with the Falcons.

“The Six Nations? My ambition has to be just getting back and playing my best for Newcastle Falcons; if I deliver on that, then maybe I will have given myself a chance,” he wrote in his column for the Times of London.

“It would be a great Six Nations to be involved in for a number of reasons, one of which is clearly the bait of the summer Lions tour to South Africa. The Six Nations in a Lions year puts a real twist on the concept of being a team player, which, from my present position on the outside, I find fascinating.

“Players and coaches are, by now, savvy enough to know that personal missions just don’t work. In other words, don’t go on the pitch trying to make a personal statement. That may seem obvious.

“However, the difficult trappings of a Lions year are the ones that can catch you unawares. You can be sitting at home on the Monday and the media are talking about you and saying they think you should be in the Lions squad. Allow that to get into your mind, start taking that thought into your next few games and that can be dangerous.

“It’s all the mental reworkings. It takes a lot of discipline not to be thinking: “I’d love to be on the Lions tour.” Or: “I should be there by now, I think I’ve just about done enough.” Or: “I couldn’t live with myself if I ruined it now.” And, of course, it’s only natural for a player’s mind to wander into such territory. The challenge is to prevent it influencing the way you play. Go out there and be yourself, be your best.

Cipriani relegated to Saxons duty

England’s proclaimed flyhalf prodigy Danny Cipriani has been omitted from their squad for their Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday.

He will instead do duty with the England Saxons against Ireland A on Friday. The 21-year-old will be joined by scrumhalf Harry Ellis, who is getting his fitness up after a six-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Perpignan’s Dan Carter.

England coach Martin Johnson, however, maintained that both players were still in his Six Nations plans. Toby Flood is likely to start the match at flyhalf. England name their match 22 on Tuesday.

Revised England squad

Backs: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Danny Care (Harlequins), Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Mark Cueto (Sale), Harry Ellis (Leicester), Toby Flood (Leicester), Ben Foden (Northampton), Riki Flutey (Wasps), Andy Goode (Brive/FRA), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Olly Morgan (Gloucester), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Paul Sackey (Wasps), James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), Mathew Tait (Sale), Mike Tindall (Gloucester)

Forwards: Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Steve Borthwick (Saracens), George Chuter (Leicester), Tom Croft (Leicester), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), Lee Mears (Bath), Tom Mercey (Saracens), Luke Narraway (Gloucester), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Tim Payne (Wasps), Joe Worsley (Wasps), Simon Shaw (Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale), Julian White (Leicester), Phil Vickery (Wasps).

France trio set for Ireland clash

Benoît Lecouls, Lionel Nallet and ­Sébastien Chabal have recovered from injury and are likely to form part of France’s squad for their Six Nations opener against Ireland on Saturday.

The trio sustained minor injuries on club duty at the weekend, but all returned to training on Monday. Head coach Marc Lièvremont will name his team on Tuesday.

Gatland hails Henson

Wales coach Warren Gatland was full of praise for Gavin Henson ahead of their opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Wales have never lost a game in which Henson has started and that bodes well as the centre is set to form part of the run-on side against Scotland.

Henson missed Wales’ mid-year tour to South Africa and the November internationals through injury, but Gatland was confident he would have a significant impact despite his lack of game time.

“There was nothing missing from Gavin’s game last year when he was fit,” said Gatland. “We were incredibly pleased with his performances and the leadership he showed. You just look for him to continue that this time around. He has become a dad again and I am sure that will add to his maturity. I hope we will see that in his performances.

“Wales have won every game in the Six Nations when he has started. As long as that continues, I will keep backing him. He is growing as a player and is in good physical shape. He can play at 12, 13 or 10. And he has played 15 for Ospreys. There is no one in world rugby with as big a boot as he has. It would be good to see Gavin playing well. He is an individual who creates a lot of interest in rugby and that’s good for both the game and this tournament.”

Henson said he was over his injury problems. “I’m fit and ready to make an impact,” he declared. “I wish I had more rugby under me going into this tournament, but I have to go with what I have got. I want that centre position, but the competition is there for everyone to see with people like Jamie and Andrew Bishop, who have been playing brilliantly. I’m a bit worried at the moment whether I’m going to get in. When I am fit, I know what I can do and what I can bring to this team.”

More to follow …