- Toby Flood excited by backline potential ahead of second Test against Boks
- We need to give them as many shocks as they can handle – Flood
Toby Flood believes there is the chance to create a new, strong attacking dynamic for the second Test against the Springboks on Saturday, with a Leicester Tigers axis at heart of the new-look backline for England.
The 26-year-old has been handed the No.10 shirt for the first time in six Tests and the for first time under Stuart Lancaster’s tenure, with Welford Road teammates Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi either side of him.
Tuilagi, who was England’s top ball carrier (12) in the first Test defeat in Durban, is playing at inside centre for the first time in an international to accommodate exciting youngster Jonathan Joseph at 13, allowing the powerful Samoa-born centre to be involved more off first-phase ball.
While Flood would not divulge tactics in the build up to the game, the 48-cap man said the backline will provide options in attack and the familiarity across 9, 10 and 12 should help them gel quickly.
He said: “We’ve got the familiarity by having played together, I understand Ben’s strengths, Manu’s strengths and I’ve played enough times with Ashton and Foden to know a bit about them.
“It should make it interesting and hopefully we’ll be able to create a strong bond and dynamic and go out there and play some good stuff. We need to give them as many shocks as they can handle.
“We want to keep the rabbit in the hat but we’ll certainly use or not use Manu as best we can. You have to remember not only is he a very good carrier he is a very good dummy line runner. He can manipulate defences around him so hopefully I can play around him and Jonathan in the centres and release our back three.”
Alongside attacking ambitions, Flood outlined the importance of tactical kicking and counters from England’s half, given the difficulty Lancaster’s side had with that in the first Test.
In terms of territory, 41 percent of the game was played between the halfway line and England’s 22, with South Africa’s tries coming during a concerted spell of pressure in the third quarter.
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With the game at an altitude of 1753m in Johannesburg, Flood added that avoiding expending vital energy in their own half becomes even more important:
“You have to create a situation where you’re not getting into too much trouble and not causing yourself problems.
“We need to make sure we don’t give them any momentum, they want you to kick and they want to squeeze you and then when you have kicked poorly you get punished for it. It’s paramount that we deal with that and if we can get it out of our half by kicking long to them, kicking it out or kicking to compete, so long as we’re doing it efficiently, it will be a good thing.”
After a bit-part role in the RBS 6 Nations behind Saracens pair Owen Farrell and Charlie Hodgson, Flood returned to Leicester and emerged as the form fly half in the Premiership, guiding the side to six straight bonus-point wins.
Modest about his role in marshalling the Tigers to those victories, Flood mused that form is something hard to quantify but admitted it was great to be involved in that run.
Flood, who missed the Aviva Premiership semi and final through injury, added: “People talk about form but I was in a side that was going really well so it was very easy to play in. You just keep your head down, crack on and do your job.
"[Form] is one of those mystical things that everyone talks about whether it’s there or not and no one really knows about it – you make mistakes in a game and win by 50 points and no one talks about it. It’s ironic but at the same time there were some great moments in those six games.”