Toby Flood: Against Australia we really opened the game up. It was pretty special stuff
Friday 19 November 2010
It's not too difficult for the players in the England squad to keep our feet on the ground about our win against Australia in the second of our autumn Investec internationals at Twickenham last Saturday.
Of course, we managed to really open the game up for the second of Chris Ashton's tries. It was pretty special stuff, right down to a man. The guys really had to put their backs to the wall defending attack after attack on our goalline for two or three minutes before we made the good decision to smother them and managed to turn the ball over.
Beyond that, Ben Youngs ran with the ball when the easy option would have been to kick it and what Courtney Lawes did from there was huge – in terms of carrying the ball and offloading it when he did. Not many second-rows would have chosen to pass in their own 22. All Chris did was run 90m. It was one of the best tries I've seen in a long time.
From a personal point of view, I kicked 25 points, which just happened to break the individual record in a match between England and Australia, which was held jointly by Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Burke. I played with both of them at Newcastle, and I rate them hugely. Matt was one of those players who always looked steady and then suddenly he would do something special and make it look very, very easy.
Of course, I'm pleased to have kicked those points. That's part and parcel of what I'm in the team for. That's my job.
There are going to be some days when you don't land nine out of nine; you're going to miss a couple. But last Saturday I managed to get them all and I'm pretty pleased about that.
All the guys are well-grounded individuals and for us it wasn't necessarily a massive stand-out performance against Australia. It was more a case of getting the job done than anything else.
I think we see it as a big tick in the box, for sure. And obviously we played some of the best stuff we've played in a while. But in terms of our evolution, it's something that we've been pushing towards for a while. We played some nice stuff in parts in the second Test against Australia in Sydney in June. We started slowly against New Zealand a fortnight ago but played some nice stuff in that game too.
It's important for us to keep our foot on the pedal in terms of playing like that. I don't think anyone will have their heads in the clouds this week, with Samoa to play at Twickenham tomorrow. It's a massive game in every respect – in terms of what we're about and how we go forward – and our concentration will need to be spot on. We're fully aware of the challenge that comes with playing against Samoa. It's a hell of a physical battle, coupled with the fact that they have got some stand-out players in their team.
We know what these guys are all about. A lot of them are brought into Aviva Premiership clubs and French clubs because they can turn a game in an instant. A great example would be my club-mate at Leicester Tigers, Alesana Tuilagi, when he scored that try against Gloucester in the Premiership semi-final two years ago. It turned the game on its head.
It's the same with Seilala Mapasua, the London Irish centre. These are big guys who can pull off some exceptional offloads both through the contact and before the contact. They're pretty special players.
We've got big Matt Banahan playing in the centre this week. We've got to use him as best we can because he's got a massively important skill set for us in terms of what he's capable of doing – how he carries the ball, how he offloads in the tackle.
He's only five caps in. I think you've got to remember that. But he has certainly got the potential to really open a game up with his ability through the tackle and beyond the tackle.
All this Ashes talk reminds me of my days as a slogger
There is another sporting contest against Australia looming on the horizon, of course. I did play a bit of cricket in my youth, for Northumberland under-14s or under-15s, I can't quite remember which. It was nothing too exciting but I do love playing cricket.
Actually, I played a bit in the summer just gone, for my local club in Leicestershire, the Langtons. That was good fun. I had a few 20-over games with them. I was also lucky enough to get to use the bowling machine and sent Dan Cole out to bat. I put it up to 99mph and sent a couple down. It was good fun to watch him run out of the way.
Dan doesn't play the game. He's not the cricketing type. To be honest, it's not something that I'm technically very good at. I like to slog the ball as far as possible. That's probably the best way to describe it. I don't like running, so boundaries are pretty much what I try and deal in. Not that I get them that often. Normally I get caught out.
A few of the Leicester boys play. The Kiwis play at Kibworth. It's just good fun to go. It's something so completely different to have a bit of a craic with people that you don't normally deal with. They're a good bunch of guys at the Langtons.
I think the people at the Tigers realise it's important in the summer months for us to have a few knockarounds, because you can go a bit stir crazy playing rugby all of the time. It's pretty good to have a smash, although gone are the days of dual-code players.
Dusty Hare played cricket for Nottinghamshire and rugby for England. And Alastair Hignell played county cricket for Gloucestershire and rugby for England. I remember talking to him about it. He is certainly a pretty talented all-round guy.
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