Wilkinson ready to fight for his place

Jonny Wilkinson is confident he will be at the peak of his powers when the British & Irish Lions clash with New Zealand in the Test series. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Jonny Wilkinson is confident he will be at the peak of his powers when the British & Irish Lions clash with New Zealand in the Test series.

Wilkinson made an accomplished return to international rugby against Argentina at the start of the week after an injury-enforced 18-month absence.

His place on the Lions tour was only secured over the final three games of Newcastle’s domestic season and he joined a squad that already featured Wales’ impressive fly-half Stephen Jones, Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara and his England team-mate Charlie Hodgson.

Wilkinson, who would never expect to be given a red carpet ride into the Lions Test team, is out to prove himself once more on the international stage and he has been inspired by the competition around him, chiefly that posed by Jones.

"The healthy competition should bring out the best in everyone and I’d like to think it would bring out the best in me,’ he said.

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"It was nice to get through that game on Monday night and say I am fit for another Lions tour.

"Now I have to fight for a Test place.

"I know there is some incredible talent in the Lions squad. It’s a fantastic thing and not something to be afraid of. We are all working together.

"I have spent a lot of my season getting over injuries, trying to find my fitness and at the end of the season trying to find my form as well.

"At the back of your mind you are aware there is something incredible happening."

Wilkinson and the Lions arrived in New Zealand at Friday lunchtime local time and, less than 24 hours later, with jet lag wearing off on the squad, he was speaking optimistically of what lies ahead.

"It’s nice to be here now and get the tour underway," he said.
"For me this is even more important than the World Cup. That was a long time ago and I have got to start again really.

"I have to prove to myself I am still capable of competing at this level.

"In that respect this will be enormous and it would be a good way of allowing myself to feel I am moving forward. Over the past 15 months I have not been able to feel that."

Jones’ departure to New Zealand has been delayed by club commitments in France and that would seemingly give Wilkinson an early advantage, particularly as he laid down such an impressive marker on the Welshman’s territory at the Millennium Stadium on Monday.

Wilkinson refuses to see it that way and Jones will be desperate to ensure the England fly-half has not stolen too great a march when he finally arrives in New Zealand on Tuesday.

Lions coach Eddie O’Sullivan admitted it was unfortunate that Jones, Gareth Thomas and Jason Robinson had all been delayed at home, but stressed: "There is ample time for them to settle in once they are here and to stake their claim.

"They will get their opportunities. I don’t think they will be at any disadvantage. When they get in here they will have a chance to make an impact."

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