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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 13:12 UK

Wilkinson holds talks with Toulon

By Simon Austin

Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson has not played since dislocating his knee on 30 September

Newcastle and England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson is holding discussions with French side Toulon about a big-money move in the summer.

Philippe Saint-Andre, who takes over as Toulon's director of rugby on 1 July, told BBC Sport: "Jonny's people are in talks with the Toulon chairman.

"I would obviously like to have as many good players as possible next season and Jonny is a top-quality player."

Paris side Racing Metro are also interested in signing the 29-year-old.

Wilkinson's agent, Tim Buttimore, confirmed that talks with Toulon were "ongoing" but said he could not reveal any details.

He added that Wilkinson had not been personally involved in the negotiations as he was "fully focused on getting back to fitness with Newcastle".

SIMON AUSTIN BLOG

Wilkinson, who has suffered a string of injuries in recent years, has not played since dislocating his knee playing for the Falcons against Gloucester on 30 September.

Toulon are bankrolled by millionaire owner Mourad Boudjellal and already boast Jerry Collins, Tana Umaga, Joe van Niekerk and Sonny Bill Williams on their playing staff, while the likes of George Gregan and Victor Matfield have also played for the club on short-term deals.

But Toulon have still not ensured their survival in France's Top 14 and Saint-Andre, who is currently director of rugby at Sale Sharks, admitted it was not a foregone conclusion that Wilkinson would join the club.

"I have heard that a couple of other French clubs are in for him and there is also of course the option for him to stay at Newcastle," he said.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal
Boudjellal has tempted some of the sport's biggest names to Toulon

However, BBC Sport understands the player is "highly likely" to leave the Falcons - his only professional club - at the end of the season.

If Wilkinson does move to France, he would become the fifth high-profile England player to commit to playing in the Top 14 next season.

Fly-half Andy Goode moved to Brive last summer and Riki Flutey will join him there at the end of the season, while James Haskell and Tom Palmer have signed for Stade Francais.

Wilkinson's ongoing injury problems meant he lost his place in the elite player squad earlier this year, but he would be sure to be in contention for a return if fully fit.

The Rugby Football Union has made no secret of its concerns about this French exodus.

Last month RFU chief executive Francis Baron sent a letter to all members of the elite squad warning they could jeopardise their England chances if they moved to France.

Wilkinson has not played for England since coming on as a substitute in the Six Nations win over Ireland on 15 March 2008.

He has not played any rugby after dislocating his knee at the end of September and looks unlikely to make a comeback against Bath at Kingston Park on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Toulon would guarantee their top-division status with victory over league leaders Toulouse at a sold-out Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday.

They are currently 12th in the 14-team league, eight points ahead of Dax, with the bottom two sides going down at the end of the season.



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see also
Wilkinson's Lions hopes receding
12 Apr 09 |  Newcastle
Bates 'assumes' Wilkinson to stay
18 Mar 09 |  Newcastle
Chesney departs in Toulon switch
15 Apr 09 |  Saracens
Lobbe set to quit Sale for Toulon
20 Mar 09 |  Sale
Hooker Azam ponders Toulon move
03 Feb 09 |  Gloucester
Centre Robinson set to quit Blues
05 Mar 09 |  Cardiff Blues
Wilkinson backed to play until 40
20 Nov 08 |  English
England need Wilkinson - Pienaar
23 Nov 08 |  English
Falcons upbeat after Wilkinson op
03 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Wilkinson suffers dislocated knee
01 Oct 08 |  English
RFU letter concerns player union
18 Mar 09 |  English
Saint-Andre set for French return
26 Jan 09 |  Sale
Toulon agree deal to sign Gregan
22 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union


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