World Cup hero Wilkinson invited to join England’s coaching team

RETIRING World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson would be welcomed into the England set-up with open arms, says national coach Stuart Lancaster.

Wilkinson, 34, announced yesterday he would hang up his boots at the end of the season, with the chance to lift the Heineken Cup and Top 14 trophies with Toulon possible in the next two weeks.

The fly-half became English rugby’s poster boy after kicking the winning drop goal against Australia in the 2003 World Cup final and is the nation’s leading all-time points scorer with 1,246 in 91 caps.

Lancaster said: “He’s probably the most influential player in the English rugby game and certainly right up there with the very best.

“It’s his influence off the field I think defines him and that’s the legacy he leaves.

“When you’ve got someone of his calibre I’d certainly want him to feel part of the England team. I would like to make him feel welcome.”

Lancaster, meanwhile, has expanded his training squad ahead of this summer’s tour to New Zealand by adding 21 players, to the initial party.

Full-back Mike Brown is one of 11 Harlequins players named, despite struggling with a hamstring strain. Lancaster is set to name his final tour squad on Monday, with players from Northampton and Saracens still to be added.