- Fly half explains importance of coherence and commitment to England ethos
- “There are no egos, so cross-over from the summer is not a problem” – Flood
A rare summer away from the treadmill of touring has left Toby Flood invigorated and eager to involve himself in Stuart Lancaster’s England set-up once more – but his unerring priority is first to hit his stride in club colours with Leicester Tigers.
Despite only turning 28 at the start of this month, the Flood’s haul of 57 caps since his Test debut in November 2006 make him the most experienced man in either EPS group.
And with both squads featuring fresh faces that either excelled against the Pumas or impressed over last season’s Aviva Premiership campaign, the fly half emphasised the importance of re-establishing coherence during this week’s three-day mini-camp at Loughborough University.
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“This is about bringing the squad together and people testing the water out with one another,” he explained.
“There have been a lot of new guys involved since Stuart has been in charge. With that in mind, it’s about getting the England ethos across, but also making sure they can go out there and express themselves.
“It’s going to take a lot to get to where we want to be. This is the start of a journey for us, but it’s also up to the individual to be the main driver for that.
“There are no egos, so the guys that have been away with the Lions, the guys who have been rested and the guys that did well in Argentina – there’s no fall-out from that.
“I think people are already back on track, understanding what we have ahead of us, which is a big autumn leading very quickly into a Six Nations.
“Tradition states that Six Nations are not the easiest after a Lions tour, so the only thing at the forefront of our mind is to get things going and get things right as quickly as possible.
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Rested from England’s trip to South America alongside the likes of Chris Ashton, Chris Robshaw and Danny Care, Flood spent part of a four-week break traveling through Vietnam – a “fun, enjoyable” precursor to the uncompromising awakening of a full pre-season at Oval Park under Richard Cockerill.
“Having a full pre-season is not pretty,” he added jokingly. “I’ve suddenly found that out – it’s not the most fun in the world, so I’ll try to avoid doing that again. But I do feel refreshed and I feel good for having spent a bit of time with Leicester.
“There were raised eyebrows between the [England] lads as we were chatting this week because there are only a couple of pre-season games left before the start of the Premiership season.
“[The end of last season] does not feel like that long ago, and I’m sure it feels even shorter for the guys that went away on the Lions trip and on tour to South America.”
Alongside Lions tourist Owen Farrell and Freddie Burns, who was assured in guiding England to a 2-0 series win over the Pumas, Flood is one of three very different number 10s in contention to take the reins for the first QBE International against Australia on November 2.
However, while clearly relishing the chance to tune in to the enthusiasm of his junior colleagues in the run-up England’s autumn programme, he also insisted that a sturdy start to Tigers’ defence of the Aviva Premiership trophy was the overarching focus.
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“It’ll be interesting, actually. Owen will bring back his experiences and so will Freddie,” he said. “I’ve been around for a long time, so I’ll chat to those guys the best I can and give them as much information as I can. Likewise, I’ll take what I can from them. The nice thing about this squad is that you never stop trying to evolve yourself and you never stop learning.
“It sounds terrible, but [cementing the England 10 shirt] isn’t even on my radar yet. At the moment it’s about having a couple of good games for Leicester in pre-season, heading into the Premiership opener against Worcester and just dealing with that.
“You have to be aware of what you need to give to your club after the respect and kindness they have shown to you. Of course [England] is in the distance, but my mind is solely based on Leicester.
“That’s a standard answer, but it’s always true – you can’t waver from there. If you start looking for a tree, you’ll get lost in the woods.”