Flood feels in fine form for England tour

Northampton 21 Leicester 35

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The Independent Online

Fly-halves operating where decisions made in longer than nanoseconds can be too late are not known for being shy or self-effacing. Leicester's Toby Flood punished a terribly sloppy Northampton defence with two tries and 15 points from kicks then reminded the world that he lost his place for England at the outset of the Six Nations due to a knee injury, not form. Furthermore, he was unperturbed that Saracens' Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell continued to be picked ahead of him.

"Injuries happen, it put me on the back burner for the Six Nations," said Flood, who knows a good finish to the season, including a possible eighth successive Premiership final for his club, would set him up nicely for England's three-Test tour to South Africa. "The great thing was I knew where I stood. I spoke to Stuart [Lancaster, the England head coach] and circumstances dictated where I was. It allowed me to come back to Leicester and just to crack on."

Flood also said he could "understand the reasons" why Farrell's father, Andy, had chosen to stay as head coach with Saracens rather than take up with England, which leaves the latter short of advice in the backs and defence.

That segues unfortunately into Northampton's performance in this fifth straight defeat by Leicester, who set a Premiership record with a fifth successive bonus-point win. The Saints' backs, running diagonally too often, were unable to counterbalance the sufferings of their pack, which lacked the force and nous of the injured Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes and suspended Dylan Hartley and Calum Clark. The foot and shin problems afflicting Wood and Lawes respectively were said by director of rugby Jim Mallinder to be unlikely to clear up before Sunday's visit to Exeter. Though assured of a Heineken Cup place, Northampton would see missing the Premiership play-offs as failure; they may be out of the picture by Sunday evening if they lose at Sandy Park.

Almost all the good decision-making and skill came from Leicester, who were all fit save for the captain, Geordan Murphy, who scratched an eye in training. Witness Anthony Allen's charge-down as Ryan Lamb fielded a long pass in the home 22; or Horacio Agulla's lovely touchline chip, chase and inside pass. These made tries for Flood and Alesana Tuilagi. The others were finished by Flood and Agulla.

The latter will leave Leicester this summer due to commitments with Argentina. "It's so good when you put on the field the things you have done in training," said Agulla, as Leicester moved second in the Premiership. "I have a few options. After a day like this people will start looking at me. My main objective is to give everything to the Tigers and a great finish to the season."

Northampton: Tries Dickson, Ashton; Conversion Myler; Penalties Lamb 3. Leicester: Tries Flood 2, A Tuilagi, Agulla; Conversions Flood 3; Penalties Flood 3.

Northampton: B Foden; C Ashton, G Pisi, J Downey (T May, 66), P Diggin; R Lamb (S Myler, 55), L Dickson (capt; M Roberts, 66); S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 55), A Long (R McMillan, 73), B Mujati (P Doran-Jones, 55), S Manoa (B Nutley, 66), C Day (M Sorenson, 55), J Craig, P Dowson, R Wilson.

Leicester: S Hamilton; H Agulla (M Smith, 60), M Tuilagi (B Twelvetrees, 77), A Allen, A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs (S Harrison, 77); M Ayerza (L Mulipola, 74), G Chuter (capt; T Youngs, 69), D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, 55), G Skivington, G Parling, T Croft (S Mafi, 66), J Salvi (C Newby, 71), T Waldrom (Cole, 73).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).