Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Flood hopes to convince the masses

Toby Flood

Toby Flood believes his challenge against Wales on Saturday will not only be to convince Martin Johnson he is England's best fly-half for the World Cup - but to convince the entire country.

Flood has been England's first choice since replacing the peoples' favourite Jonny Wilkinson at the end of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations. Wilkinson made an impressive pitch to reclaim the England 10 jersey with a man-of-the-match performance against Wales in last weekend's first warm-up international.

"I don't think I've ever been in charge of that 10 shirt," said Flood. "It has always been hugely difficult for me to have it. There will be 58million people in England who probably think I shouldn't be in charge of it."

He added: "The scenario has always been that Jonny, given his opportunity, will have a standout game and he did that. To me it is nothing new and I have just got to shrug my shoulders and get on with it. The nice things is there is a guy who is driving you hard.

"Whenever you play for England you are always on trial. You have got the responsibility of playing for your country. It is always a high-pressure game so nothing really changes. The guys have played well and the team have won a game. There is a massive responsibility on us to make it two from two this weekend."

Flood was Wilkinson's protege during their days at Newcastle but broke out of his shadow once and for all over the last 18 months, playing an influential role in England's resurgence.

Wilkinson was dropped after England's bore draw against Scotland at Murrayfield. Since then, Flood has helped them beat Australia twice and rise to fourth in the world. But Wilkinson will forever be the hero at Twickenham and England fans still reserve their biggest ovation for the man whose drop-goal won the 2003 World Cup final.

"It is the history he's had playing for England. He has been a stalwart of the England side for a long time, and someone people respond to really well," said Flood. "All I can do is concentrate on playing as well as I can every time I have a chance. I know he's around but it is the same for everyone in the squad, there is competition in all position."

Although rivals, Flood and Wilkinson have remained friends and they are both committed to improving each other for the benefit of England.

"The good thing is we have hung out for a long time," said Flood. "We are good mates so we can sit and have a chat about the game and scenarios. We are in a situation where Charlie (Hodgson), Jonny and I will sit down and discuss things we can improve on. There is a good atmosphere where we can share information."

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