Toby Flood casts aside Jonny Wilkinson popularity

By Alex Lowe
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:28
Wilkinson impressed against Wales
Wilkinson impressed against Wales

Even if Toby Flood is right in suspecting 58 million Englishmen want Jonny Wilkinson to start at fly-half in the World Cup, there is only one man whose opinion really counts.

And Flood will set out on Saturday, in England's second warm-up international against Wales, to convince manager Martin Johnson he deserves that precious 10 jersey.

The Leicester fly-half has been England's first choice since replacing people's favourite Wilkinson at the end of the 2010 Six Nations.

But Wilkinson made an impressive pitch to reclaim the role with a man-of-the-match performance against Wales in last weekend's 23-19 victory.

Flood will get his opportunity to respond in the return match at the Millennium Stadium this weekend - but admits he will be on trial for his World Cup place.

"I don't think I've ever been in charge of that 10 shirt," said Flood.

"It has always been hugely difficult for me to have it. The scenario has always been that Jonny, given his opportunity, will have a standout game and he did that.

"To me it is nothing new and I have just got to shrug my shoulders and get on with it. The nice things is there is a guy who is driving you hard.

"Whenever you play for England you are always on trial. You have got the responsibility of playing for your country. It is always a high pressure game so nothing really changes.

"The guys have played well and the team have won a game. There is a massive responsibility on us to make it two from two this weekend."

Flood was Wilkinson's protege during their days at Newcastle but broke out of his shadow once and for all over the last 18 months, playing an influential role in England's resurgence.

Wilkinson was dropped after England's bore draw against Scotland at Murrayfield. Since then, Flood has helped them beat Australia twice and rise to fourth in the world.

But Wilkinson will forever be the hero at Twickenham and England fans still reserve their biggest ovation for the man whose drop-goal won the 2003 World Cup final.

"It is the history he's had playing for England. He has been a stalwart of the England side for a long time, and someone people respond to really well," said Flood.

"There will be 58 million people in England who probably think I shouldn't be in charge of it (the fly-half position).

"All I can do is concentrate on playing as well as I can every time I have a chance. I know he's around but it is the same for everyone in the squad, there is competition in all position."

England will today learn the results of Lewis Moody's knee scan but Johnson is confident the injury he suffered at Twickenham will not rule him out of the World Cup.

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