Insurance the new blow for Wilkinson

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The Independent Online

If Jonny Wilkinson is selected for the Lions tour to New Zealand, he will have to arrange his own insurance cover. "We will not insure Jonny Wilkinson's knee," John Feehan, the chief executive of the British and Irish Lions, said. "That would be a decision for himself."

If Jonny Wilkinson is selected for the Lions tour to New Zealand, he will have to arrange his own insurance cover. "We will not insure Jonny Wilkinson's knee," John Feehan, the chief executive of the British and Irish Lions, said. "That would be a decision for himself."

The rocketing costs of medical insurance means that the bill to cover the squad of 44 players is in the region of £700,000. "After wages, insurance is the second biggest cost," Feehan said. Wilkinson has not played for England since the World Cup final in November 2003, due to shoulder, neck and knee injuries. The Lions learnt an expensive lesson in Australia in 2001, when Lawrence Dallaglio was chosen despite carrying an injury.

Sir Clive Woodward announces his squad on 11 April. If Wilkinson makes it, and it's a big if, Newcastle would probably insist that he is covered under the Lions' umbrella policy. "Our aim is not to exclude players from the tour, but there are limits," Feehan said. In every other regard, the contracts the players will sign are "communal". Feehan added: "There will be no individual negotiations. They will all be treated in exactly the same way."

Although the élite will represent the Lions in three Tests, many players were disappointed at the basic fee, understood to be £20,000. However, the sum can be supplemented by win bonuses of 20 per cent. With a huge coaching staff, the wage bill will exceed £1m, making it the most expensive tour in history. "Ideally," Feehan said, "everybody who steps on the plane will be 100 per cent fit."

Mark Cueto, the England wing and Lions hopeful, scored two late tries in Galway to help Sale into a 25-18 lead after the first leg of their European Challenge Cup semi-final against Connacht. But the Sharks would have started the return leg at Edgeley Park on 24 April with twice the lead had the home captain Andrew Farley not barged over for his second try in the sixth minute of injury time.

The French No 8 Sébastien Chabal touched down after an hour for Sale, whose other points came from the boot of the US Eagles fly-half Mike Hercus - a late call-up for Charlie Hodgson, who has a groin injury. Eric Elwood kicked the rest of Connacht's points.

New Zealand's Crusaders scored 21 second-half points en route to a 33-27 victory over the Super 12 leaders, the New South Wales Waratahs, in Sydney. The Blues saw off the ACT Brumbies 17-0 in Auckland, for the defending champions' second successive defeat.

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