Toby Flood admits ‘sleepless nights’ over decision to quit Tigers and England

Fly-half has admitted it was “a very tough decision” to leave Leicester for a French club

The aftermath of a morale-crushing loss in the Heineken Cup – Leicester’s first defeat in 26 European matches in their home city since Munster won at Welford Road in October 2006 – was not the time to expect chipper responses from Toby Flood in his first comments on his move to a French club this summer. The Tigers captain and England fly-half had played a material part in the 22-19 win by Ulster that earned the visiting province a home quarter-final with Saracens while condemning Leicester to a runner-up’s trip to Clermont Auvergne, who have not lost at home in more than four years.

Flood’s new club next season is believed to be Toulouse, although French regulations stipulate he cannot confirm that for a few weeks, which added to his discomfort in speaking, apparently at the behest of Leicester, who were keen to get the subject aired – much as their director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, blurted the news out last month a matter of hours after Flood had tweeted he was still undecided.

“It was undoubtedly a very tough decision,” said Flood, “and there were quite a few sleepless nights. The hardest decision was leaving behind the thing that ultimately you enjoy the most, a good bunch of boys at this club who want to work well for each other.

“Obviously, accompanying that were other bits and pieces. With England it was what opportunity you had, and certain situations surrounding terms and contracts. Ultimately, it came down to a decision of what I felt was right, for me now, for the next three, four, five years.”

Flood has been immediately dropped from England’s elite player squad, so while the usual batch of Tigers will join the national team today to prepare for the Six Nations Championship, he will be resting his sore knees and thinking only of the club. A ruinous Leicester injury list got no better on Saturday night, as Jordan Crane, Mat Tait and Graham Kitchener were forced off and England’s front-rowers Tom Youngs and Dan Cole were named by Flood as among the “battered bodies”, although that appeared only ordinary weariness.

Flood bemoaned his lack of “a sixth sense” at not seeing Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar coming for the charge-down try that helped overturn a 10-point Leicester lead in the last 25 minutes. Pienaar’s three penalties in the first half were matched by Flood’s, as both teams sought the win that would earn them the prized home Heineken quarter-final. Flood’s chip made a try for Niall Morris that helped Leicester go ahead 19-9 but they buckled under the weight of Pienaar’s converted try and two more penalties, including a second of the match kicked from inside the Springbok scrum-half’s own half. Ulster battered Leicester at the breakdown and with a proficient driving maul as well as kicking from hand a lot.

Flood said in convoluted terms that England’s head coach, Stuart Lancaster, had left the door open to the 28-year-old being included in “certain squads” in the future. Did the 60-cap No 10, who was second choice behind Owen Farrell last autumn and has seen Bath’s 20-year-old George Ford take his squad place now, grumble at being left out now?

“No, it’s in the [England squad] contract, I knew it was something that could happen,” said Flood. “I know that I wouldn’t have been involved post-2015, [so] I think Stu’s decision then was to move on and build the next generation of guys. It [not starting for England] certainly changes your perception of what’s going on. I’ve been very fortunate to have been involved in two World Cups, one [in 2007] which was very successful, one [in 2011] which was not. Flip those around, you’d probably want to hang around. The way they fell, it makes things probably a little bit bitter in your mouth, so you have to be more pragmatic about your decision. I’m sure there’ll be a pang of jealousy and a bit of annoyance that the guys are going to go out there and play those Six Nations games.”

Flood has never stopped taking soundings from his old Newcastle and England team-mate Jonny Wilkinson, now thriving with Toulon, who are also thought to have shown an interest. “Jonny was in no way a deciding factor but I respect his opinion,” said Flood. “He was very honest. He didn’t say stay or go, he was just honest about what he felt about it, how he’s enjoyed it, how he’s not enjoyed certain parts.

“The huge temptation was to keep it safe and do what you know and stay at a great club and a great environment. If I did that, if I stayed for another three or four years, I’d have missed my chance to go and explore something I wanted to do for a long time.”

Ulster are this season’s only quarter-finalists to have won all six pool matches and they will attempt to be the first team to win the Heineken Cup with that record. “A lot of great teams have been in this situation and not gone on,” said Johann Muller, the captain who led them to the 2012 final. “Saracens are a great side. They totally outplayed us last year.”

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas