Flood keen to step out of Wilko's shadow

by Staff Writer

Toby Flood cracked a joke when asked what it will take for him to be named ahead of Jonny Wilkinson in England's starting XV for Saturday's quarter-final against France.

"All you can do is slip notes under the door when they are having selection meetings,'' Flood said.

Flood's status in the line-up is linked to the health of Wilkinson, who is nursing a sore arm.

On Sunday, coach Martin Johnson said he was "worried" that Wilkinson may not be fit for the last eight match, and there has been no word on Wilkinson's status since then.

With England set to name their team on Thursday, Flood found himself being asked whether he is ready to replace the English rugby icon.

"It is exciting and I am not going to get too excited at the moment. I am just going to go on as I normally am,'' said Flood. "But it is a great scenario for me to be in.

"You never wish anyone to be injured and by all intents and purposes, he will be fine and I think he is in a strong position. The (injured) arm looks good and he is happy."

Key role

Flood played a key role in England's 16-12 victory over Scotland at Eden Park last weekend. After coming on to replace Mike Tindall in the 71st minute, he sent a nerveless long pass to Chris Ashton that produced a try, Flood adding the extras with a terrific conversion from the touchline.

Flood would be the logical candidate if Wilkinson's 13-year Test career came to an abrupt close and it would bring to a conclusion a career path the two have crisscrossed for years.

Flood came through the academy at Newcastle Falcons at a time when Wilkinson was the national hero after kicking the winning points in the Rugby World Cup 2003 final.

The youngster played in the centres when Wilkinson was playing fly half for Newcastle and often replaced Wilkinson when he was injured.

And while Flood joked about the selection process, he knows Wilkinson will likely get a chance to add to his list of records and achievements.

Wilkinson is England's most capped back with 96 caps. He has scored 1,244 international points for England and the British & Irish Lions and needs seven to regain the world record from Dan Carter, whose World Cup has ended because of a groin injury.

Wilkinson's 275 points at Rugby World Cups is an all-time record and is 48 points clear of the next best (Gavin Hastings of Scotland).

France's nemesis

Then there is the fact he scored all of England's points in a 24-7 triumph over France in the 2003 semi-final, and nine points in England's 14-9 victory over Les Bleus in the 2007 semi-final.

"Maybe that is why you have to pick him. You want to be selected on current form on not on how eight years ago I was this and I was that. I was great when I was 12,'' said Flood.

"At the same time, you understand how some people have that ability against certain sides. There is an edge there and that will be on his side of the bar."'

As for the French, Flood is not buying into reports that the team is in disarray.

"It is a case of it is the quarter-final and it is France. We know they look like they are in disarray but I have been on teams in disarray but suddenly players look inward and they start playing for one another and that is a dangerous tool."

Flood believes England must apply relentless pressure to win.

"We have to understand as a side that we blitz from minute one. Then we play and we play and we play and we do not have the body language that we had on the weekend against Scotland.

"It is how you start. The first 20 minutes are hugely important."

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