Wilkinson has to delay return for Newcastle

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The Independent Online

Newcastle have had to put back Jonny Wilkinson's long-awaited return from injury for at least another week. The Falcons' fly-half, who missed all three of England's autumn internationals, is believed to have undergone a scan on his injured arm yesterday.

Wilkinson damaged the biceps muscle in his right upper arm back in October and was eventually ordered to rest after aggravating the injury in successive club matches.

Newcastle are hoping that the scan will show that the problem has cleared up and that Wilkinson will be given the go-ahead to resume full-contact training next week.

Whether Wilkinson will then be fit enough to take part in next week's return leg of the Heineken European Cup tie against Edinburgh will depend on his fitness, but he is definitely out of the first leg at Kingston Park on Sunday.

The Newcastle director of rugby, Rob Andrew, explained: "Jonny has to be given the all-clear by his medical team to do contact sessions and he has to be comfortable when he does them.

"When he's done at least one or two contact sessions and he's done it to his and his medical team's satisfaction that he is 100 per cent confident, then we'll reintroduce him into the squad. Until that happens he's not in the squad and I'm not prepared to speculate on when that time might be."

Wilkinson has been plagued with injuries since his last-gasp drop-goal won England the World Cup in Sydney more than a year ago. He was on the sidelines for eight months after the World Cup final because of nerve damage in his neck and shoulder which required surgery, then he suffered this biceps injury.

Bath are hoping to hang on to England centre Mike Tindall. Like Wilkinson, Tindall's present contract runs out in June and from next month the Yorkshireman will be free to talk to other clubs.

"We would be stupid to let Mike go, it would be a crazy thing to do," said one club source. The Bath head coach, John Connolly, said yesterday: "We are desperate to keep him. I don't think he wants to leave Bath. He has settled in the city. He loves the club. He is two or three years away from a testimonial and he is a very important player."

Tindall, who is thought to earn more than £100,000-a-year, is looking for a substantial hike in his pay and talks are on-going between the player, his agent and the club.

Tomorrow's exhibition match at Twickenham between the Barbarians and New Zealand has been turned into something of a southern hemisphere showpiece with just one northern hemisphere player in the Baa-Baas squad of 22, the Italian prop Andrea Lo Cicero.

Nine members of the Wallabies side that beat England last weekend are in the starting line-up. They include the brilliant Matt Giteau at fly-half, the position in which he finished the England match, and the winger Lote Tuqiri, who has been selected at outside centre by the coach, Bob Dwyer.

Mat Rogers will start at fullback with Chris Latham, who played in that position against England, starting on the wing, and Morgan Turinui in the centre. Daniel Vickerman, Phil Waugh and Bill Young, who were all at Twickenham six days ago, feature in a powerful pack.

In all there are 10 Wallabies in the Baa-Baas' squad, which also features the New Zealand scrum-half Justin Marshall, who will find himself on the wrong side of the haka, the All Black's traditional ceremonial precursor to their Tests.