Wilkinson confident over fitness

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Jonny Wilkinson today insisted he will be fit for England's first Test against Australia in Perth on June 12.

The Toulon fly-half suffered rib damage in the Amlin Challenge Cup final and had been advised by club medics to avoid all contact training until just three days before the game.

But Wilkinson, who has not played in Australia since dropping the goal that won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup, is chomping at the bit for a swift return to action.

"Injury-wise I'm fine," Wilkinson said after England's 44-man squad arrived in Perth.

"I took a knock in the back in our last game of the season. I've already had a week (without contact work) and I'm being held back by the physios rather than anything else at the moment.

"I want to get out there, but they are telling me to take a few more days.

"It's nice to be here with easily enough time to get ready to be on the training field at the same time as everyone else."

Despite Wilkinson's eagerness, England coach Martin Johnson suggested he would be held back from next Tuesday's tour-opener against the Australian Barbarians.

"Jonny's had more games than most of the players this year with the season in France so we'll see," Johnson said.

Wilkinson is not England's incumbent fly-half at present, having lost the 10 jersey to Toby Flood after a series of patchy performances during the RBS 6 Nations.

But there was not greater indication of how influential Wilkinson remains on the big stage than the way the Challenge Cup final turned on its head after he hobbled off.

Cardiff Blues roared from 13-6 down at the Stade Velodrome to score three second-half tries and win 28-21.

Wilkinson has his sights set on playing in a fourth World Cup, in New Zealand next autumn,

"For me it's an exciting year ahead and the process of getting older and playing rugby has actually been quite interesting to me, especially the last couple of years," said Wilkinson.

"I've made some big decisions in terms of where my career has gone and I've enjoyed the learning process. One thing I've learned from that is that you can't say how long you will play for.

"When I was 18 I was saying I wanted to play until I was 45 - that's changed a bit now.

"A World Cup, regardless of how many more you have to play, is enough to focus on and if you get the chance is a big, big thing. To play one more would be enormous and that's the aim."

Johnson wants to use the five-match tour - two Tests against the Wallabies, two dates with the Barbarians and a clash with the New Zealand Maori in the space of 16 days - as a launchpad for England's World Cup campaign.

"The build-up starts now in terms of World Cup preparation and it gives some guys genuine opportunity to advance themselves," said Johnson.

"We have a big squad deliberately, we've brought 44 players, and it's the last time we'll be on tour before the World Cup in 2011.

"If we'd just played the two Test matches and brought 30 players then a certain number of guys wouldn't have played, so this gives guys a genuine opportunity to be involved in the senior group and to try to force into the Test squad.

"We have to name 32 on July 1 to go into next season so there's a lot of competition for spots.

"We've got a good mix of a squad. There's the core that's been there this year, but also a number of guys with Test match experience who haven't been involved for a while like Charlie Hodgson and David Strettle.

"There's other younger guys coming in who played on Sunday (against the Barbarians at Twickenham) like Dave Attwood and Jon Golding, and older guys who have played well in the Premiership this year."

Wilkinson rates the Wallabies highly and expects Robbie Deans to have moulded them into a major force by the World Cup.

"You've got a good mix of power, strength, speed and enthusiasm," he said.

"Some of the stuff in the Super 14 being played is enormously ambitious as well.

"Australia have always been tactically astute (and) mixed with this enthusiasm and desire to give it a go is dangerous.

"A team like that is going to be in great shape for the World Cup."