Wilkinson focuses on club matters

Jonny Wilkinson insists he is focusing on Newcastle's bid for European Cup qualification for the moment as he tries to prove his fitness to British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward. [more]

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Jonny Wilkinson insists he is focusing on Newcastle’s bid for European Cup qualification for the moment as he tries to prove his fitness to British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward.

The 25-year-old England captain came off the replacements’ bench at Northampton to play 50 minutes in the Falcons’ 23-22 Zurich Premiership defeat on Friday night after overcoming medial knee ligament damage.

All eyes will now be on whether he can recover match-sharpness and be called into Woodward’s Lions squad for the tour of New Zealand this summer, but the fly-half says his immediate priority is to help his club.

"Whatever happens will happen, but at the moment I’m fully focused on club rugby and trying to help get the Falcons back into the European Cup," he said.

"I’m back to enjoying life and getting on with my rugby as normal, so I’m very happy."

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Wilkinson tested the Saints defence with a number of runs and wide passes and was pleased with his performance, if unhappy about the result.

"It was a relief to get through the game without any bumps and bruises, and instead of the disappointment of being missing from the game I have a different type of disappointment, that which you get from defeat.

"It felt good to be honest, and everything passed the test from a physical point of view. It was just nice to finish a game."

Asked how much ground he needs to make up, Wilkinson told the club’s official website, www.newcastle-falcons.co.uk: "That’s a difficult question, because I’m always going to say that I’m a long way away from being as sharp as I want to be, so there is always room for improvement.

"Having played that game I know again what it means to be excited about playing, so I just want to get as many games in as I can for Newcastle."

Newcastle boss Rob Andrew insisted his star player looked in excellent shape.

"We’re just pleased he’s got through 50 minutes or so," said Andrew.

"We’ve said all season that physically he’s in great shape – and he looked pretty good to me."

Newcastle are now on course to take part in the wildcard play-offs that offer an extra European Cup place to English clubs.

The wildcard competition will also offer Wilkinson a chance to get some more game-time under his belt before the Lions play their farewell game against Argentina in Cardiff on May 23.

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