- Toby Flood makes first England start since autumn defeat to SA
- “Get front foot ball, dictate the play and create opportunities” says fly half
Toby Flood has not started an England match since going off injured against South Africa last November but he is relishing the opportunity to play again at No.10 when he runs out against Italy on Sunday.
The 27-year-old is England’s most capped player with 55 appearances and has been drafted in at fly half by Stuart Lancaster as a replacement for the injured Owen Farrell, who has been ruled out after suffering a thigh injury in England’s win over France last month.
Flood himself is no stranger to injury while playing in an England shirt, having limped off with a damaged toe during the team’s 16-15 loss to the Springboks in the autumn. Since then Farrell has been the fly half of choice, excelling in England’s historic win over the All Blacks in December and three wins so far in the RBS 6 Nations.
While Flood has come on twice as a substitute throughout this year’s tournament against Scotland and France, the Leicester Tigers man is looking forward to a full start against the Azzurri.
“You want to be a part of it,” he said. “Having played a couple of times off the bench you try to do the best you can in that role. It’s nice to have an opportunity to go out there though and start and hopefully we can go out there and play in a manner that benefits us and gets us the result that we need.
“You know you are going to get injured as a professional player at some point, and the timing of it wasn’t great. It was frustrating not to be involved in the game [against New Zealand] that was hugely beneficial and brilliant for guys involved but it’s something I have managed and dealt with and you have to take your opportunities when they come and this week I get a chance to start and go out there and play the best I can.”
Photo: Getty Images
Flood played 20 minutes against France, notching up two late penalties to help England to the win over Les Bleus. While Lancaster’s men were able to maintain a high tempo and eventually overpower the French, England’s usually impenetrable defence and solidarity at the breakdown was lacking during the 80 minutes.
Against Scotland and Ireland, England missed 11 tackles while against France their tackle efficiency dropped as they slipped off 21 attackers. Andy Farrell, who leads on defence, does not measure the success of England’s aggressive, get off the line defence on missed tackles but there were also issues at the breakdown. The French back row also caused problems for the English in the first half with their physicality and speed to the contact area, but Flood says that against Italy they will raise their game and provide solid attacking platforms.
“A huge focus for us is the breakdown and how we approach that and how we take it on,” said the former Newcastle Falcon. “Our physicality there was important and outstanding against New Zealand and we need to keep doing that.
“I think we dropped off against France and think a lot of us put our hands up and said the breakdown wasn’t as good as it should have been. We were not as clean and as clinical but it’s nice to go out there and be a fly half as it means you have the chance to get front foot ball, dictate the play and try to create some opportunities.”