Wilkinson retreats to Border return

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But yesterday Falcons left Wilkinson, who underwent a groin operation in November, out of their 22-man squad. The director of rugby Rob Andrew explained: "He's fine, but his adductor muscle is just a little bit sore. There haven't been any complications, it is just part of the recovery process and he isn't far away."

The delay makes a certain amount of commercial sense in that Falcons are at home to Border Reivers in the European Challenge Cup next week and Wilkinson's first match since mid-November would guarantee pushing up the gate.

Andrew added: "In hindsight, we probably jumped the gun a little bit by saying he might play against Worcester last weekend."

At least one England halfback will be back in action this weekend. The Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis is on the Tigers' bench at London Irish on Sunday, a bare three weeks after undergoing knee surgery.

But Ellis's team-mate, the prop Alex Moreno, could be out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in a training ground accident with fellow prop Graham Rowntree.

The Tigers' head coach Pat Howard said: "It's just one of those things. He was taken on from both sides and the knee just gave way." Bristol's eight-week injury-free record ended yesterday when their centre Sam Cox was forced to pull out of Sunday's game against the Guinness Premiership leaders Sale because of a broken toe. He is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

Northampton yesterday completed the overdue signing of the utility back Robbie Kydd and when the 18-month deal was signed the 23-year-old, whose move from Saracens was delayed by a serious knee injury in March, was promptly named in the team for tomorrow's match at Worcester.

Five French clubs have won their appeal over fielding internationals within the approved timescale of eight weeks following an international.

Toulouse, Biarritz Olympique, Stade Français, Narbonne and Perpignan played a total of seven French internationals in the season opening round of matches on 22 September 22, which was fewer than eight weeks after France had played Australia in Brisbane.