In Depth

Wilkinson tipped for Lions call as mega-rich Beckham sees red

Veteran icons of English sport experience different fortunes with their French clubs

IT WAS a weekend of differing fortunes for two veteran English sporting icons who now ply their trades in France. Jonny Wilkinson returned to England and provided a masterclass at Twickenham while David Beckham headed east from Paris and got sent off against Evian.

Veteran rugby star Wilkinson stole the show at rugby HQ and gave Owen Farrell, his most-recent successor as England fly-half, a lesson in how to run the game, as Toulon beat Saracens 24-12 to book a place in the Heineken Cup final.

The game was billed as a match-up between Farrell and Wilkinson, and the winner was clear. Wilkinson scored all his side's points, seven penalties and a drop-goal, in a flawless display.

"Farrell did not disgrace himself but... he had to concede that Wilkinson was the old master at Twickenham in this semi-final," wrote Vic Marks in The Guardian.

Wilkinson may even have earned himself a Lions call up. "Is there a better No10 available to coach Warren Gatland?" asked Brian Moore in the Daily Telegraph. "When Gatland announces his Lions tour party tomorrow it will be a mistake not to have Wilkinson in it."

The player, who will be 34 by the time the Lions tests get underway, tried to dampen speculation about his inclusion and insisted that younger players were better suited to the tour. However, The Times notes that Wilkinson "comprehensively outplayed" Farrell, and adds that a Lions tour would be a "fitting climax to a glittering international career" for Wilkinson.

Meanwhile David Beckham had rather less of an impact in the latest instalment of his swansong with Paris Saint Germain. The 38-year-old midfielder came on as a late substitute for the French league leaders, but was sent off just six minutes later for an over-the-top lunge at Evian's Youssef Adnane.

Beckham was not the only PSG player to be sent off in a bad-tempered encounter, that ended 1-0 to the visitors. His dismissal came after Italian defender Marco Verratti saw red and shortly before a mass-brawl at the final whistle after which Parisian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was given his marching orders along with Evian striker Saber Khelifa.

There was some good news for Beckham, though. He topped the Sunday Times sport rich list and is now said to have a fortune of £165m, more than £100m more than any other players of the modern era. Wilkinson has some way to go before catching up with Beckham on a financial front. The rugby player is down in 77th place on the rich list and is worth a meagre £14m.

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