NEWCASTLE boss John Fletcher claims he would have been "a stark raving lunatic" to leave out a fully-fit Jonny Wilkinson for Sunday's Guinness Premiership clash against title contenders Bristol.
Fletcher has hit back at suggestions Falcons might have rested their England fly-half star, who is struggling with injuries picked up on England Six Nations duty, from domestic duties this weekend.
England head coach Brian Ashton (pictured), is eager to see the entire starting line-up selected for tomorrow week's RBS 6 Nations appointment with Ireland in Dublin rested when the Premiership resumes following a 20-day break.
The clubs are under no obligation to comply with Ashton's wishes, although it is likely less than half the Croke Park XV will come under starter's orders.
Assessing the Wilkinson situation, Fletcher said: "He is definitely not rested.
"We are 10th in the league, and we are going to play one of the top teams on Sunday. I'd have to be a stark raving lunatic to go into such a game without one of the best players in the world.
"I can see why some of our supporters are upset at the suggestion we've rested him, but that simply isn't the case. He wouldn't have played for anyone this weekend.
"The decision was that Jonny is not fit to play. He hasn't trained with the team this week. He is carrying bumps, bruises and strains after two (Six Nations) games, and the decision was that he was not ready for selection."