Wed, May 18, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Wilkinson, Wills boost British and Irish Lions' NZ tour

AGENCIES , LONDON AND TOKYO

England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson is itching for the start of the British and Irish Lions' tour of New Zealand after being called up late following his recovery from injury.

Wilkinson, who has not played international rugby since kicking the drop goal that won the 2003 World Cup, will set off with Clive Woodward's squad next week after 17 months of frustration with shoulder, arm and knee injuries.

"Physically I feel fantastic and I am desperate to get out there," Wilkinson said on Monday. "What I am is very, very fresh unlike a lot of the other players but I feel completely ready for the rigors of Test rugby."

The 25-year-old will compete for a place in the Test side with Stephen Jones of Wales, Ireland's Ronan O'Gara and his England team mate Charlie Hodgson.

"The guys on the tour are fantastic players, Stephen Jones to name one," Wilkinson said.

"He won the [Six Nations] grand slam and I have enormous respect for the guy but I would love to be in the Test team and would be very very disappointed if I didn't make it."

Wilkinson says a series victory in New Zealand, achieved by only one other Lions side, in 1971, would rank among the highlights of his career.

"There are so many talented players in New Zealand and there is so much intensity about rugby," he said. "Winning there with the Lions would be right alongside England winning the World Cup."

The Lions play Argentina in Cardiff on May 23 before departing for New Zealand with the first of three Tests scheduled for June 25.

Royal support

Britain's Prince William will join the British and Irish Lions rugby union tour to New Zealand in July to support the team, Clarence House said on Monday.

During the trip, the Prince will also conduct his first solo royal engagements on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, at events to commemorate the end of World War II.

William, 22, was invited to support the Lions team by manager Clive Woodward.

"I am delighted that Prince William will be spending some time with us," Woodward said in a statement. "It will be a great boost for the team as he is a great supporter of the game.

"He is going to be with the team for certain periods and it all adds to the sense of occasion around these key tests," Woodward said.

William, who is currently studying for his final exams at St. Andrews University in Scotland, will join the Lions squad for the second and third Test matches in Wellington and Auckland.

William's younger brother, Prince Harry, was in Sydney to support the England team when they won the World Cup in 2003.

Kiwi in Tokyo brawl

A rugby player from New Zealand on Japan's national team was arrested on suspicion of punching nightclub staff after abusing a woman in a Tokyo entertainment district, police said yesterday.

Philip O'Reilly, 24, was arrested early in the morning in Roppongi after allegedly slugging and shoving three night-club employees, a police official said.

The incident came after the staff warned O'Reilly, who was with another New Zealand player, for allegedly insulting and touching a woman at the entrance of the nightclub, police said.

O'Reilly denied wrongdoing.

O'Reilly, who plays for Sanyo Electric Wild Knights in the Japanese Top League, was chosen for the national squad this year. His arrest came after he scored a get-ahead try on Sunday in the Asian qualifier against South Korea for the 2007 World Cup.

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