Wilkinson closing in on return

British & Irish Lions fly-half Jonny Wilkinson could make his Twickenham return this weekend - against Harlequins in the Zurich Premiership. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

British & Irish Lions fly-half Jonny Wilkinson could make his Twickenham return this weekend – against Harlequins in the Zurich Premiership.

Just 24 hours after England, who have lost nine of their 14 Tests without him since his drop-goal won the World Cup, tackle Six Nations Championship opponents Italy, Newcastle take on Quins at the nearby Stoop Memorial Ground.

And Falcons might give fly-half superstar Wilkinson his first taste of action on Sunday since he suffered a knee injury during the European Cup defeat away to Perpignan in early January.

Wilkinson is now in training with the Newcastle squad, and a long-awaited comeback looms large.

Newcastle desperately want 52 times-capped Wilkinson available for their European Cup quarter-final appointment with French champions Stade Francais in Paris on April 2.

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But Falcons boss Rob Andrew has reiterated Newcastle’s stance that he will not be rushed into a return following neck, arm and knee injuries post-World Cup.

"He is back training with the full squad," said Andrew.

"We will just have to see how it goes this week.

"He has taken the next step, which is to rejoin the full squad for training, and we will have to wait and see if there is any reaction.

"If there isn’t, then we will have a look at where we go from there."

Any appearance this weekend would probably be off the replacements’ bench, with Newcastle having another Premiership game – against Bath on Easter Sunday – before travelling to Paris.

England’s final Six Nations fixture against Scotland on March 19 is also a possibility, but Wilkinson will probably be eased back by his club before he can seriously contemplate Test match rugby again.

His first international since returning is therefore likely to be on the Lions tour of New Zealand this summer.

"We are working with England with regard to Jonny, and they are pretty relaxed and have left it pretty much in our hands," added Andrew.

"And we will not be rushing him back before he is ready."

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