2001 Toyota Corolla Needs New Manual Transmission?

I have a 2001 Toyota Corolla with 79K miles. I purchased the car new and have had the manual transaxle fluid replaced twice since owning the car. Recently, the car has begun making a clicking sound in 2nd gear and higher. The noise is not noticeable in 1st gear or neutral. But is a continuos clicking sound that is consistent with the engine speed in 2nd gear and higher. I was unable to identify the location of the sound so I brought to a trusted mechanic. He put the car on the lift and said the sound is coming from inside of the transmission. He showed me how the right front accel has “too much play in it”. He also said that the problem may be related to the differential but that in my my model the differential is combined with the transmission so it’s the same work required, replacing the transmission. I wanted to hear your thoughts on whether there are other “less expensive” possiblities as to what is causing the noise and not require replacing a transmission prematurely. Please advise! Thank you!!

Is it more noticeable when turning right or left?

I think you may have a CV joint problem. If you don’t; drive that car forever or until the noise gets louder. It could be an exhaust noise or a catalytic converter shield noise. These things can be tricky.

I was actually able to stand underneath the vehicle while it was on the hydraulic lift and that is when the mechanic showed me the play in the right axle as well as allow me to listen to a noise that definitely sounds like it is inside of the transmission. The sound is always present, going straight or turning, whenever in 2nd gear and above (i.e the sound is not noticeable in 1st or neutral). Could this still be related to the CV joint?