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Brian O'Driscoll and Jonny Wilkinson, Lions team mates in 2001, could form two pivotal parts of the 2005 jigsaw in New Zealand, after the England fly-half earned a late call-up to the touring party.

British & Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward added Wilkinson - who showed strong signs of a recovery from his knee ligament injury when playing for Newcastle at the weeekend - to his 44-man squad yesterday.

The Falcons' Zurich Premiership wildcard play-off defeat to Gloucester was Wilkinson's third game back after a period on the sidelines.

Lions captain O'Driscoll said: "It is fantastic, it's great to have him there. Everyone knows about Jonny's capabilities, what he brings to a side and it is great to have him back in form and playing well.

"Touch wood he is over all his injuries and it is a big boost to the side. Mentally he is a tough player, his skill level is as high as you can get and he is the complete number 10. He controls things well, he is full of confidence and that is what you need," he told the Press Association.

"It's very exciting. He's an incredibly organised individual. He's got a clear idea of what he wants, he's very structured, he's a very confident guy."

"He is so good at what he does and he will strengthen the squad now we have four fantastic stand-offs. It is a big boost to the side."

Wilkinson has not played international rugby since the 2003 World Cup final due to the combination of a shoulder/neck injury, a bicep problem and two knee ligament injuries.

He will join Ireland's Ronan O'Gara, Stephen Jones (Wales) and Charlie Hodgson (England) in competing for the number 10 jersey for the three-Test series against the All-Blacks.

The 2005 Lions, meanwhile, will break with tradition by staging two public training sessions down under.

The first will be at North Harbour Stadium in Albany, north of Auckland, on Tuesday, 31 May - four days before their opening match against Bay of Plenty.

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20 June 2018
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