Goode times in France but England still expects

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The Independent Online

Strange days in the world of England fly-halves: Jonny Wilkinson chattering away in French at his grand unveiling in Toulon; Danny Cipriani going from a photo shoot in a Lions jersey to making a third XV trip to the US, and And Andy Goode, sitting next to a log fire at a hotel in chilly Surrey, receiving a text from his wife in Brive to say it is 27 degrees in the nice, warm, well-paid Massif Central.

"I'm living the French way of life and it's enjoyable," said Goode, who has just completed his first season in the Top 14 Championship, in which Brive finished sixth and qualified for the Heineken Cup. The signing of Wilkinson, on a reported £650,000 for one year with an option for another two, is admitted by Toulon to be partly a marketing exercise, as they expect to flog thousands of jerseys with the now 30-year-old's illustrious name on them. Meanwhile, Cipriani leaves today for the England Saxons' Churchill Cup competition in Denver with an odour of disorder following him around like Pig-pen's cloud of dust in Peanuts.

"Last summer the England pecking order was very different," said Goode, the only capped No 10 in the squad for the forthcoming Tests against Argentina. "Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood were ahead of me in the main squad, and I was in the Saxons with Danny Cipriani who was injured. Martin Johnson told me that if Jonny or Floody got injured, he'd have a look at me. Clear as clear can be. In November Jonny was injured but Danny was fit and they went with him. Fair enough, as a player you just get on with it."

Cipriani did get on with it, and when he started England's first three autumn Tests last November he insisted the ankle he'd broken six months previously was "100 per cent". Yet the ankle has given him recurring problems right up to him limping off at half time in his most recent match for Wasps on 25 April. Ten days ago the Lions – whose kit manufactures, Adidas, had photographed Cipriani in their red jersey for possible promotional use – inquired about the 21-year-old's availability to go to South Africa and decided against it based on a medical report from England's doctor, Mike Bundy.

"Only Danny will know about his fitness last autumn," said Goode. "I was playing for Brive at the time and when you've got a five-year-old kid you don't sit watching replays of games. You can't change what's in the past, I live in the here and now." That positive attitude, and his availability for Johnson and England whenever they called, earned Goode five more caps in the Six Nations Championship to take his total to 14, and he started against the Barbarians yesterday when, thankfully, the English weather had caught up a bit with that in France.

"I've never talked about finance," said Goode of his reasons for crossing the Channel. But wages are much higher in the Top 14 and England's Wilkinson, Jamie Noon, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer, Iain Balshaw and James Haskell, plus A internationals Tom May and Ayoola Erinle, are on their way.

How many of them Johnson calls on next season is unknown; the merde will hit the fan if they cannot follow Goode's lead of having release from his club when required. Even Goode admitted that if Brive reach the Top 14 semi-finals this time next year, he will put his club first. And is there any mileage in the idea that English players should stay loyal to the English club game? "The decision is different for every individual," he said.