It's Jonny Wilkinson v Toby Flood as the two iconic No 10s clash for the first time

Leicester man looking forward to playing against his mate at last as Tigers travel to Toulon

Two of the words that define Toby Flood's rugby career, in the popular imagination at least, are "Jonny" and "Wilkinson". You can see the public's point.

Suitably inspired by Wilkinson's epic deeds in the early years of the last decade, Flood went on to understudy England's most celebrated player at Newcastle, train and play alongside him for club and country, fight him tooth and nail for the international No 10 shirt, and then, after a long and frustrating struggle, succeed him at the heart of the red-rose team. Hell, they were even born in the same small town on the Surrey-Hampshire border.

But as he revealed, Flood has never faced his great friend, ally and occasional tormentor under match conditions. Not once. Which makes this weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final between Toulon and Leicester before a sell-out crowd on shores of the Mediterranean unusually interesting. Wilkinson, who last week signed up for another tour of duty with the free-spending French side, is expected to start the tie in his usual position of outside-half. Flood? He will lead the Midlanders from the same position. It promises to be the individual duel of the round – and, quite possibly, the season.

"It'll be fun," remarked Flood, who passed the 50-cap mark for England before Christmas and has been kicking like a dream all year. "We're good friends – we've always got along really well – and there's that history between us. We're all expecting a seriously tough game against what we acknowledge to be a stunning side, and the threat Toulon pose has made us look in at ourselves and understand that we'll have to be at our pinnacle to win. But I think there will be some wry smiles between Jonny and me during the course of the contest. I hope so, anyway."

Flood could easily have sidestepped the Wilkinson questions, or even ruled the W-word off limits. Rugby is, after all, a team sport, not a soap opera. But he was happy to engage with the subject, crediting the World Cup-winning midfielder with setting the standards that allowed a generation of young Newcastle backs to make the best of themselves.

"When I was just starting out, the thing that really struck me about Jonny was his desire," the Leicester man said. "It seemed oxymoronic at the time: the world's best player, training harder than everyone else. But to see someone blessed with that ability showing such endeavour, such a determination to leave no stone unturned in the quest to be better… basically, it showed us what we could be like if we followed his example. And that desire is still there. He looks just as hungry as he always was.

"He's just as sharp too. Toulon have other people who can run a game – people like Matt Giteau (the exceptional Wallaby playmaker). But it's Jonny who will orchestrate things. If their momentum stalls and he's in drop goal range, he'll step back two or three paces and bang it between the posts."

Leicester accept they will start this Sunday's game as underdogs, but they are largely unaffected by injury – of the really serious front-line players, only the international lock Louis Deacon is out of circulation – and they will travel in full warpaint.

"The question is whether we can withstand the physicality of the Toulon side and deal with the brilliance of their individuals," said Richard Cockerill, the Midlanders' rugby director. "Most people will look at their squad and say it's better than ours, and that doesn't happen to us often. We know all about their spending power – if they want a player, they buy him – and if you look at their cover in the back row alone, you think: 'Christ, what's the point?' So we'll concentrate on looking at the detail of what they do rather than look at their team sheet and worry about their big names. They have a lot of them, but only 15 can be put on the field."

Then, the former hooker put on his mischievous face. "We're not like Toulon," he commented. "How they go about running their club isn't right and it isn't wrong. It's just different. Players go to them because they pay the most money and it's a nice place. Here at Leicester, you don't get the most money… and it isn't a nice place."

Laughter in the darkness, or an indication that the Tigers are ready to get down and dirty? Experienced gamblers will place their money on the second of those options.

Head to head

Jonny Wilkinson/Toby Flood

33 Age 27

Frimley Birthplace Frimley

5ft10in Height 6ft 2in

13st 8 Weight 14st 3

1997 Pro debut 2005

Newc, Toulon Clubs Newc, Leics

1 Prem title Honours 2 Prem titles

91 England caps 57

1,179 England points 299

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London