Simply playing for Leicester confers a certain status and Toby Flood, who is Tigers' fly-half and the incumbent for England too, is outwardly relaxed at wearing such highfalutin mantles. Whether he, his club and his country have what it takes to win titles collectively and variously will be tested in the next month.
Flood kicked six conversions on a windy afternoon against Treviso – a couple of them from very wide angles – and showed the Italian championship runners-up his customary wares of taking the ball into heavy traffic, mixed with snappy passes to beat the first-up tackle. Flood also came off after 49 minutes due to a back spasm, of which the 23-year-old former Newcastle No 10 said: "It sometimes happens, but it doesn't last more than a couple of days. It means you lose a bit of posture and your kicking's difficult."
Kicking out of hand was rarely required. Treviso's uninspired tackling and hopeless scrummaging allowed Tigers to rack up eight tries, including six in the first half. Scott Hamilton, the New Zealander wing, had two, while Aaron Mauger was every bit as hungry and effective as he was not last season, when he was afflicted by injury. Tom Croft was leg-pumpingly prominent.
Flood's early withdrawal meant he had two minutes sharing the field with Treviso's Italy fly-half, Andrea Marcato, who had begun on the bench. They could meet again when England face Italy at Twickenham in the Six Nations opener on 7 February. This Saturday, Flood and Leicester take on Ospreys, James Hook et al, in Swansea to decide the top spots in Heineken Cup pool three; England's second Six Nations match is against Wales in Cardiff. Will all this familiarity breed Flood's contentment?
"Ospreys did really well to get a bonus point in Perpignan and we'll have to do the same, though, of course, we're going there to win," said Flood, analysing the standings correctly. "They're pretty much a full international side; we played there pre-season and we know what it's like. Mentally, it will be a tough game. It will be down to how we deal with the noise and the ferocity of an almost Test-like game."
The Leicester board is full of canny fellows, but they made a mistake with Marcelo Loffreda, the head coach sacked last year, and will not want to err again with his successor, Heyneke Meyer, in what appear to be tragically different circumstances. Meyer has been at home in Pretoria with his wife, whose parents are terminally ill, since New Year's Eve. Following the Ospreys showdown – both sides face every possible outcome from elimination to securing a home quarter-final – Leicester have a three-week break which gives the board time to take stock, if they wish to.
"There's been a bit of chopping and changing with Heyneke going," said Flood. "Of course it''s hard losing your head man but the way the club and the players have dealt with it has made it a lot easier than it could have been."
Leicester: Tries Hamilton 2, penalty, Mauger 2, Smith, G Murphy, J Murphy Conversions Flood 6.
Leicester: G Murphy (J Murphy, 53); M Smith, S Rabeni, A Mauger (capt; S Harrison, 57), S Hamilton; T Flood (D Hougaard, 49), B Youngs; M Castrogiovanni, G Chuter (B Kayser, 46), J White (B Stankovich, 46), M Wentzel (M Corry, 70), B Kay, T Croft, B Woods (B Deacon, 53), J Crane.
Benetton Treviso: B Williams; A Vilk, M Horak (A Marcato, 47), M Neethling, E Galon; M Goosen (S Orlando, 79), T Botes (A Lucchese, 75); F Sbaraglini (capt; A Ceccato, 29), D Vidal, P Di Santo (R Barbieri, 52), A Pavanello (M Filippucci, 58), C van Zyl, M Gilbride, H Louw, D Kingi.
Referee: P Gauzère (France).Reuse content