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Wilkinson relishes renewed Flood partnership

06 October 2011

  • Jonny Wilkinson on Toby Flood partnership for France quarter final
  • I have great faith in what he can bring to the team says England No.10
England pair Jonny Wilkinson (R) and Toby Flood discuss tactics in training ahead of the RWC quarter final against France

Photo: Getty Images

Jonny Wilkinson is looking forward to renewing the midfield partnership with Toby Flood that started in the Newcastle Falcons first team and continued into England’s Test side for the Rugby World Cup quarter final against France on Saturday.

Leicester Tigers fly half Flood, who has 45 caps, makes his ninth start at inside centre against Les Blues, with all but one of those games seeing former Newcastle mentor Wilkinson alongside him at No.10.

Although the last time they were paired at the 10-12 axis was 20 months ago – the 30-17 victory over Wales in the 2010 RBS 6 Nations at Twickenham – 90-cap Wilkinson believes Flood’s leadership qualities and their mutual learning of the game bodes for a positive partnership.

The combination also includes a notable 24-13 win in Paris in 2008 and Wilkinson said: "I’m excited about it. Floody is playing well and he’s a vocal guy, he knows what he wants, he bosses people around and controls the game.

"To work alongside someone like that is a great thing. It’s not the first time I’ve played alongside Toby, I know the guy very, very well and have great faith in what he can bring to the team.

"He’s a positive influence on everyone and a presence in the team so we’re super pleased to have him there doing his thing.

"As much as it’s time playing together it’s also time training together – time talking, time working things out, time pushing each other forward. Having two guys on similar wavelengths is an added bonus."

England fly half Jonny Wilkinson punts possession forward at Rugby World Cup 2011

Photo: Getty Images

Wilkinson, who needs just seven points to regain the crown of record Test points scorer from injured All Black Dan Carter, is revered in France for his performances in knocking them out of successive world cups and immersing himself in French culture during hi ongoing stint with RC Toulon.

With his knowledge of French rugby, the 32-year-old is adamant that Martin Johnson’s side cannot afford to gift the initiative to France in the manner they did to Scotland last time out.

"Against Scotland we let them take the front foot, they took the game by the scruff of its neck and then we followed," he added.

"Perhaps that had something to do with the build up in that we knew what the permutations were and I think the guys were slow to get off the mark. This week has been about being proactive and understanding that we’re here to play and nothing else.

"No one is more aware than I about what we may be facing this weekend, 100 per cent concentration is necessary from start to finish or otherwise we’re going to be facing the backlash that so many others before us have faced and wondered what the hell hit them."

England fly half Jonny Wilkinson tackles France openside Imanol Harinordoquy in the 2011 RBS 6 Nations victory at Twickenham

Photo: Getty Images

Although Marc Lievremont’s side have struggled during the pool stages – losing to Tonga last time out – Wilkinson knows that it just takes one moment of magic from the talented French attack to wrest the crucial momentum in their favour.

"When backs are against the wall it just takes one spark from one player and the rest launch from that and you pretty much wave goodbye to any advantage you had.

"What we can’t afford to do is give them that opportunity, so we’ve got to make sure that we do our job and prevent from being what they can be, as good as any team in the world."