Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed Jonny Wilkinson is in contention for a place in the touring squad to face Australia next summer.

Wilkinson retired from England duty as the highest points scorer in the country's history in 2011, but has of late spearheaded Toulon's surge to the summit of the Top 14 table.

And Gatland, who has an injury crisis at fly-half with Rhys Priestland out for the rest of the season, is open to selecting Wilkinson but admits his club's stringent policy on releasing players for the tour must change.

Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson could go on a third Lions tour according to Warren Gatland.

"If we take the France-based players, our preferred option is that they are on the plane with us," said Gatland.

"We know what a quality player Jonny is. He is out of international rugby but he is playing in a side that is winning, and he is definitely one we are keeping an eye on.

"The most difficult thing is we will be getting the squad together for almost the first time on the plane.

"But if you look at guys at Toulon for example, they could be playing in a final the same day as our first game in Hong Kong. So it is going to be difficult to integrate them and get them to be a part of the tour.

"It is not something we need to commit to now, and we will look at the strength-in-depth in certain positions, and injuries, but the idea is to have everyone on the plane together."

Toulon stated earlier this year that Lions players would not be released for the start of the tour to Australia should they be involved in the Top 14 final, which is on 1 June, the same date that the Lions face the Barbarians in Hong Kong in their opening warm-up match.

Coach Bernard Laporte said: "The international window begins on the weekend of June 9. Everything that happens before that is outside of the window. We won't pay a player who has to go at the most important time of our season."

However, IRB rules concerning representing the Lions conflict with any contractual obligations.

"The quadrennial British and Irish Lions Tour is a Designated Event and all Players selected to participate shall be released," IRB regulation 9.6 reads.

"The Release Period shall ordinarily commence on 1 June and ordinarily conclude on the 2nd weekend of July in the relevant year."

Along with Wilkinson, teammate Gethin Jenkins could be affected along with fellow Top 14 players Mike Phillips, Luke Charteris, Lee Byrne and James Hook.