Wilkinson Set to Buck Trend and Sign Deal with Toulon; Rugby Union

Article excerpt

Byline: Alex Lowe

JONNY WILKINSON is prepared to challenge England's hardline stance against selecting overseas-based players by signing a new deal to stay at Toulon.

The Rugby Football Union wrote to Wilkinson and the England squad a fortnight ago announcing their "absolute intention" to only pick players from domestic clubs following the 2011 World Cup.

Wilkinson's current contract expires in the summer but Toulon coach Philippe Saint-Andre confirmed his star fly-half is close to agreeing a new deal.

That would either force England to back down and pick Wilkinson under their "exceptional circumstances" clause, or signal the end of his glittering international career.

Wilkinson said: "I can understand where they are coming from and what they're saying.

"For me, in my situation at the moment, my main aim is to keep getting better and I made a move (to Toulon) a year and a half ago to try to continue to do that.

"I want to carry on doing that now. I am happy where I am, it fits the bill for me. I am enjoying the experience and I'm learning a hell of a lot. I owe a lot to these guys.

"I want to keep getting better day by day. That has always been the overall goal. I will keep doing that and see where it leads me."

Wilkinson, who helped Toulon to a 19-13 Heineken Cup victory over London Irish on Sunday, is two games into a return from the shoulder injury which forced him to miss England's four November inter nationals.

Toulon captain Joe Van Niekerk afterwards described Wilkinson as a "genius" and Irish boss Toby Booth suggested he is getting better with age. …