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Rugby, Australian Football: Wilkinson to start for Falcons

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posted on Dec, 30 2004 @ 07:59 AM
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Jonny Wilkinson will start his first game for 11 weeks when Newcastle tackle Zurich Premiership rivals Sale Sharks on Sunday. And the England skipper is set for an intriguing head-to-head with his red rose fly-half rival Charlie Hodgson, ensuring a bumper attendance at Kingston Park. Wilkinson suffered a bicep injury during Falcons' appointment with Saracens in mid-October, and was sidelined until making his return as a substitute against Heineken Cup opponents Edinburgh on December 11.

He also featured off the bench in the Powergen Cup sixth-round defeat at Saracens and against Leeds last Monday, when he played for an hour and kicked Newcastle to a 15-11 victory.

Wilkinson's full-scale return to action will be a huge boost for England head coach Andy Robinson, whose team kick off their RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign against Wales in just over five weeks' time. It is understood that Robinson is considering Wilkinson as a potential inside centre at the Millennium Stadium, retaining Hodgson as fly-half, but Sunday's encounter will offer a direct comparison.

Newcastle have eased Wilkinson back into action following an injury-ravaged 2004, that also saw him absent between January and August because of a serious neck and shoulder problem.

"We are delighted to have him back, but we are not a one-man team, as we have proved over the last few weeks," said Newcastle rugby director Rob Andrew. "Jonny is chomping at the bit and raring to go."

With Matt Burke sidelined because of a knee injury, Dave Walder switches from fly-half to full-back, and Wilkinson forms Falcons' half-back combination alongside Hall Charlton.

Sportinglife




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