Toby Flood: It's going to be tough but if we can beat the Boks it will have been a great autumn
We have to win the physical battle against South Africa. If we don't, it will be a long day
Friday 26 November 2010
The visit of the reigning world champions to Twickenham tomorrow for the last of the autumn Investec internationals is a hugely important game for us as an England squad. It's important that we end with a victory against what is sure to be a very dangerous South African side.
That is the challenge for us. I know the Springboks have won six in a row against us and triumphed 42-6, a record score, when they were at Twickenham in 2008, but we don't see it as anything to do with settling scores. It's vital for us that we finish the series well and to do that we will have to win the physical battle against them. If we don't manage to do that and they take control, it will be a very tough afternoon for us.
You always have to be wary when the Springboks are wounded. Their loss against Scotland last Saturday will have hurt them and whenever they have their backs against the wall they're dangerous. It's massively important for us to react to that, because if we let them get started you can be sure that they'll hurt us.
We have made four changes to the team that beat Samoa 26-13 last week, just one in the backs. Mike Tindall comes back in at outside centre. It's great for us to have the kind of experience that Mike brings to the party because we've got a lot of young guys around. He makes good decisions. That's why he's won 65 caps. He makes the right decisions at the right time. And that's hugely important for us.
It's bizarre to think that another old head in our back division, Mark Cueto, has gone so long without scoring an international try. The thing is he has been playing so well, creating for everybody else, which is good. I think he would have scored last weekend had Danny Care passed the ball to his outside when he sent Tom Croft over.
He's due one but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Mark gets a bit of stick here and there in the changing room but that's mainly because he's over 30. He'll get on the end of something soon – hopefully this weekend.
I thought we did some good stuff at times as a team against Samoa last week but it wasn't quite where we wanted to be. Our standards were a little bit down. It's always hard to take on the Samoans. They're a very tough, very physical side to break down.
We were a little bit behind, a little bit slower than we should have been. Having said that, I thought we reacted to that situation quite well. We kind of ground out points and opportunities. We got the job done. The scoreline could have been slightly more flattering in the end but to be honest I think that's what it would have been: flattering. I think it probably told the truth – in that we were slightly off the ball and didn't take our opportunities as well as we should have.
The Test arena is a tough one. I'm sure South Africa will have gone up to Murrayfield last week expecting to do better than they did, especially given Scotland's result the week before against New Zealand. All credit to Scotland, and to Andy Robinson, their head coach.
It was Andy who gave me my first chance for England, off the bench against Argentina four years ago. That feels like a long time ago. I came off the bench, gave away an interception try with my first touch, and we ended up losing the game.
I've always felt bad about that. It was a brutal introduction to Test rugby but it was massively important for me as a learning curve. I didn't think things could get any worse. I was pretty surprised still to be involved the following week. I thought I deserved the chop at the time.
I'm pleased to see that Andy's gone on to do tremendously well for Scotland. They're playing to their strengths and steadily climbing the world rankings.
Next time pick on someone your own size, Ben
My Leicester Tigers half-back colleague Ben Youngs has come a long way in his six-cap international career but I think it's fair to say that he still has a fair bit to learn. Such as who to push and who not to push!
It's always great to have a scrum-half with a little fire in his belly. But pushing George Stowers, the big Samoan Number 8, as Ben did during last week's game...
Ben tried to claim that he got him front on but we're not so sure! The trouble for my team-mate is that he plays in the Aviva Premiership – and so does Stowers with London Irish.
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