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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 January 2007, 18:53 GMT
Fit Wilkinson should play - Catt
Jonny Wilkinson (centre) talks to his England team-mates
Wilkinson has not played for England since the 2003 World Cup
Mike Catt says he would usher Jonny Wilkinson straight back in to the England side as soon as he is fit, even though it could cost his own place.

Wilkinson, 27, played for the first time in 12 weeks when he came off the bench in Newcastle's 39-5 defeat at Leicester.

Catt, 35, who can play fly-half or centre, admits he would waste no time bringing Wilkinson back.

"Jonny has looked brilliant. He's the missing link," Catt told the Guardian.

"There are only two or three people in the world who could be out for six months and still capable of being put straight back into an international side. He's one of them. The mental side won't be a problem."

For the record, I don't think he [Ashton] does feel I'm ready

Jonny Wilkinson

England coach Brian Ashton, who names his 22 on Monday for the Six Nations opener with Scotland, admitted earlier this week that he hoped Wilkinson will be back in the team "as soon as possible".

But Wilkinson, who has not played for England since the 2003 World Cup final, feels he is unlikely to return to the England fold just yet.

"Nice idea, but it'll take some injury crisis for that to happen," Wilkinson wrote in his column in the Times.

"I've sat down with Brian a couple of times this week and the message was quite clear: that I'm not in the squad to keep in touch, that they will be genuinely looking at the way I play and that they will consider me for selection.


"I just hope that this time my body allows me to keep on going.

"For the record, though, I don't think he does feel I'm ready."

Newcastle coach John Fletcher said after the Leicester game: "They're not my decisions but he's ready to play.

"It's entirely up to Brian. I'm not too sure what Brian's thoughts are about players who haven't played a lot of rugby in a relatively short period of time. But he's available."

And Tigers coach Pat Howard added: "Jonny is just finding his feet. I am sure the biggest thing for Jonny is getting a run of games. Everyone knows he's a good player."

In Wilkinson's absence, Ashton is likely to choose between 21-year-old Toby Flood and 20-year-old debutant Shane Geraghty.

But with rugby league convert Andy Farrell widely tipped to win his first cap as inside centre, Ashton may want someone with more experience marshalling the back-line and could hand a 68th cap to fly-half/centre Catt.

"At the moment Faz [Farrell] is the in-form 12 but if you've got Floody with two caps under his belt at 10 and someone at 12 with no caps...I'm sure they're capable of doing it but you need a balance," said Catt.

"I'd love to be involved in the 22 but Brian has said nothing to me at all."

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