Flood gets his kicks in battle for keys to No 10
Leicester 33 Gloucester 11
Monday 22 February 2010
Toby Flood has never appeared on a magazine cover wearing a James Bond tuxedo, surrounded by pouting models – the closest he has come to a Hollywood image was a grandfather who had a bit part in The Guns of Navarone – and the Leicester No 10's career is diverging from Danny Cipriani's in other ways now too.
While Flood will continue to endure the sometimes humdrum appeal of England's winter mudheaps, Cipriani has signed up for the fast tracks of Australia with Melbourne Rebels next season. "A lot of us are a little bit jealous of Danny playing in the sunshine," said Flood, before adding more seriously: "Really, it's a brave decision. I know Danny pretty well and I'm sure he'd have had many sleepless nights about it. If he sees this as a way of furthering his career, then credit to him."
Flood kicked seven goals from seven attempts on a cloying surface to help end Gloucester's run of five straight wins, before giving an insightful analysis of the club-and-country scene Cipriani will be leaving behind.
"It was a bit heavy-footed in terms of the strike," Flood said of his kicking. "But they all went through and I guess that's what matters in the end. The feeling in the changing room is that we got a great result and that's all that matters at this time of the season."
As to his currently fruitless battle to usurp Jonny Wilkinson as England's starting fly-half, Flood half-joked: "I've always been told Jonny will reach his peak at 35, and he's only 30. All I can do is keep putting my hand up, and all he can do is keep putting his up. That's the way it's got to go."
Unless, of course, you try a different way, Down Under.
Flood took one for the team – Leicester, that is – when he was shifted to inside centre after 30 minutes' play, to cover for an ankle injury to Dan Hipkiss. Having sat on the England bench throughout the win in Italy six days previously, Flood was thus denied the opportunity to run the show fully from fly-half in front of the watching England manager, Martin Johnson. "When you're back to playing at Leicester, the club is all that matters," said Flood. "That's the culture of the club."
Sadly for Gloucester, whose head coach, Bryan Redpath, has been using Sir Ian McGeechan as a sounding board in recent weeks, they did not have the wherewithal up front to pick many holes in the rejigged Leicester backline. It was not for the want of trying by Nicky Robinson, the visitors' Wales fly-half, who gained little reward for a performance of individual skill which outdid both Flood and Leicester's replacement fly-half, Jeremy Staunton.
Neither of the back rows would have celebrated their contributions much. But an early Gloucester lead of 6-0 was quickly overturned to 9-6 as Leicester won a stream of penalties and the home side eventually had enough chances to at least double the three tries they scored through Lote Tuqiri, Geordan Murphy and Ben Youngs.
It was Murphy's first start on his third appearance since he dislocated a shoulder last September. After confirming he is close to signing for another three years at Leicester – his only senior club since he became a Tiger in 1997 – the 31-year-old full-back joined up with Ireland yesterday, as a candidate to replace the injured Rob Kearney against England on Saturday. "I've been involved in three games for Leicester," said Murphy, "and I don't know if it's too soon [for Ireland]. I feel OK but it's up to the management."
Leicester: Tries Tuqiri, Murphy, Youngs; Conversions Flood 3; Penalties Flood 4. Gloucester: Try May; Penalties Robinson 2.
Leicester: G Murphy; S Hamilton, D Hipkiss (J Staunton, 30), A Allen (A Tuilagi, 71), L Tuqiri; T Flood, B Youngs; M Ayerza, M Davies, M Castrogiovanni (B Stankovich, 71), L Deacon (capt), G Parling, C Newby (B Deacon, 62), B Woods, J Crane.
Gloucester: O Morgan; T Voyce (C Sharples, 60), J May, T Molenaar (T Taylor, 71), L Vainikolo; N Robinson, R Lawson (A Williams, 70); N Wood (A Dickinson, 58), O Azam (S Lawson, 51), G Somerville (P Capdevielle, 63), D Attwood, A Brown, L Narraway (A Eustace, 68), A Qera (A Hazell,58), G Delve (capt).
Referee: W Barnes (London).
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