Wilkinson to miss autumn Tests

Jonny Wilkinson's international career, so frequently punctuated by injury, was interrupted once again yesterday when the England medical team ruled him out of the autumn Test series in its entirety. Wilkinson, struggling with a fresh bout of trouble in the neck-shoulder area after picking up a knock playing for Toulon, was always a long-odds contender for the meeting with New Zealand at Twickenham a week today, but the red-rose management hoped he might be available for the subsequent matches against Australia, Samoa and South Africa, the world champions.

Charlie Hodgson, the Sale playmaker whose fortunes at the top level have been decidedly mixed despite the consistently high standard of his rugby in the Premiership, will now understudy Toby Flood of Leicester, whose grip on the England No 10 shirt has tightened significantly as a result of Wilkinson's misfortune. Martin Johnson, the national manager, said last night that the World Cup winner's four-week rehabilitation programme would be carried out in conjunction with the medical staff in Toulon.