Wilkinson recovers for Wallaby Test

MARTIN Johnson has confirmed Australia's arch nemesis Jonny Wilkinson will be fit to tackle the Wallabies in Perth next Saturday.

Wilkinson has been training on his own since the squad arrived in Australia after suffering rib damage in Toulon's Amlin Challenge Cup final defeat to Cardiff Blues.

The initial medical advice from Toulon was that Wilkinson may not have been able to take contact until Thursday, which placed his Test chances in jeopardy.

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But Wilkinson has been cleared for a return to action 48 hours early – giving England's preparations a major boost as they chase only their third Test victory on Australian soil.

Wing David Strettle and prop Job Golding are also expected to be in contention for Test selection after making good progress from ankle and rib problems respectively.

"Jon Golding, Dave Strettle and Jonny will all resume full training this week," Johnson announced. "They will run to a degree tomorrow and will be back in full training by Tuesday – Jon probably by Wednesday or Thursday. They will all be fit by Saturday and if they are fit for full training, they are fit to go out and play."

Wilkinson played a key role in both England's triumphs Down Under – in June 2003 and then in the Rugby World Cup final five months later.

Now 31, Wilkinson is back in Australia on this five-match tour for the first time since landing that drop goal in Sydney seven years ago.

Despite his catalogue of injury problems and the patchy Six Nations form which cost him his place, Wilkinson retains an aura over the Wallabies which England will be anxious to play on.

"Growing up you have your heroes and Jonny was the guy I looked up to as the best fly-half in the world," said Australia's stand-off Quade Cooper.

"He still is one of the best and it's a great honour to get the Wallaby No10 jumper for a Test against him."

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Toby Flood remains the man in possession of England's fly-half position after taking over the reins from Wilkinson for the final Six Nations game in Paris.

But Wilkinson came off the bench that day and almost made a match-winning difference. His England future could well be as a super-sub.

The side's record under Johnson is eight wins in 19 Tests – but the tourists are set to boast a major advantage in the scrum next weekend. Australia have improved in leaps and bounds since their pack was demolished by England in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final – but the Wallabies will be without their entire first-choice front row.

Prop Ben Alexander has joined hooker Stephen Moore and Benn Robinson on the sidelines after sustaining knee ligament damage during Australia's 49-3 victory over Fiji at the weekend. And England were encouraged to note how much Australia's scrum struggled in Canberra.

Asked whether a novice Wallaby front-row would give England an advantage, Johnson said: "Yes. It is an important area of the game. There are more penalties given there than anywhere else.

"But it doesn't just happen because they are relatively inexperienced. We have to get it right. You have to work at it.

"They will be very aware of it and the players given their chance will be keen to take the opportunity. You cannot be complacent in any part of the game or you will come second."

Before all attentions turn to the Test match, England tackle the Australian Barbarians – essentially Australia A – in Perth tomorrow. Johnson names his team today.