Toby Flood: I want to play through merit, not injuries to others
Six Nations Notebook
Friday 12 March 2010
Replacement not used. Nobody wants to be that person, sitting in that dark place. But for the last two Six Nations matches I've been that man. I'm not going to lie, it's been frustrating. Hugely.
But what can I do? There's only been one option as far as I've been concerned. Not sulk or mope, or let the frustration turn into bitterness. That won't help my cause and, more pertinently, won't help England's case. It's in the hands of gods and the only influence I can have is playing as well as I can when I get the chance. Whether that be for Leicester Tigers or for England.
I'm just glad I'm in the 22 for this – sorry for the cliché – "must-win" match against Scotland. I had a bang to the head when playing against London Irish last weekend. Before I went off I couldn't remember any of the calls. Memory loss. Not great when you're calling the moves. The other backs soon realised, had a laugh about it and took over. I went with the flow and the most important thing was that the team went on to win so handsomely.
Afterwards, I was never really worried about the concussion keeping me out of the Murrayfield clash, but I did have to sit out one training session and then pass the doctor's review. But I'm in and raring to go – or that should be "raring to go on".
People outside rugby often comment to me I must be sitting there on that bench hoping for Jonny Wilkinson to get injured. Nonsense. You want to get on that pitch because of merit, because of a tactical change – not because someone's had a knock. Of course, it's vital you take your chance if it does arise. I was talking about this to Louis Deacon the other day. He came on when Simon Shaw damaged his shoulder against Ireland. Louis grasped the opportunity brilliantly and now he is starting in Edinburgh. Good for him. That's just sport, I guess. That's how it happens.
I certainly don't go along with all this trash-talking of Jonny. As No 10 you're always in the critics' firing line and Jonny more than anyone. But he can handle it. He's been around the block more than most and been in the spotlight perhaps more than any rugby player ever has. Because of who he is, he's an easy target. Like I said, he's got a big enough chin to take it.
It's the team's objective to be expansive. There have been extenuating circumstances against Italy and Ireland. In Rome the opposition were so adept at slowing down the ball it made life very difficult. At Twickenham two weeks ago, we were having a go at the Grand Slam champions and then the heavens opened. So it all proved to be a little too static. Of course, we'd love to win entertainingly against Scotland. But the primary factor is to win. We make no apologies for that.
Will I get on? I have to prepare like I will. There's no other way to go about it, apart from the negative way. Yeah, it's been disappointing and when Brian Smith, our backs coach, came up to me after the last match and said something along the lines of "look, it's not that we don't trust you, it was just the way the game was going" you do respect him, but it still hurts. Yet I genuinely did feel so much more frustrated about the team's defeat to Ireland than simply my own non-appearance. That's what matters. Not me. It's about the team. But I can tell you, if I'm needed, I'm ready. Boy, am I.
No 'best time' to play Scotland
I can't remember 20 years ago when Scotland beat England in that famous Grand Slam decider after their captain, David Sole, had led a slow march out of the tunnel. From what I've heard I'm lucky I was just five at the time and more interested in toy cars. But I do remember two years ago when we went up to Murrayfield with such hope and they played so fantastically to send us homewards. I was playing at inside-centre and can testify to how daunting the stadium can be when their Bravehearts are on the march. To me, Scotland are desperately unlucky to be nought from three so far and this probably isn't the best time to playing them. But as an Englishmen there is no "best time" to be playing them on their own turf. The Calcutta Cup is a unique occasion. Saying that, this is a massive game for both teams. We wouldn't even dream to think about a decider in France before this game was out of the way. That would be very daft, indeed.
Toby Flood and The Independent are supporting RBS RugbyForce, the scheme that can help your club to improve its facilities. To register for the RBS RugbyForce weekend on 5-6 June, visit www.rbs6nations.com/rugbyforce
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