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Saracens 32 Sale 12: David Strettle stars to storm back into England reckoning

Saracens 32 Sale 12: Strettle stars for Sarries to storm back into England reckoning

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

18:25 GMT, 6 January 2013

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UPDATED:

21:44 GMT, 6 January 2013

Forgotten wing David Strettle fired Saracens to success over struggling Sale in the absence of England full back Alex Goode, who is now an injury doubt for the Six Nations.

Goode missed Saracens’ final Aviva Premiership match at Vicarage Road with a shoulder injury picked up three weeks ago against Munster.

Mark McCall, Saracens director of rugby, said Goode needs another two or three weeks of rehabilitation before he is likely to play again.

ar: Strettle scores Saracens' first try

Star: Strettle scores Saracens' first try

He said: ‘At the minute we are looking at the non-surgical route but it all depends on how his rehab goes.

‘If he makes the progress they (the
medics) hope, he’s got a great chance of making the Six Nations, but
England may want him to play a game or two.’

Goode could yet be joined in the England squad by Strettle, who lost his place last summer due to a hernia operation.

Owen Farrell is favourite for England's no.10 shirt after Flood was cited for an alleged tip tackle

Spot on: Owen Farrell is favourite for England's no.10 shirt after Toby Flood was cited for an alleged tip tackle

ENGLAND WATCH

Stuart Lancaster has no worries about the goal-kicking of Owen Farrell, who scored 22 points.

Eight from eight kicks took his Premiership ‘hot streak’ to 20.

He also weathered the attempts of Sale’s heavyweight centres Johnny Leota and Sam Tuitupou to power past him.

England centre Brad Barritt had another solid match and provided the pass for David Strettle’s try.

McCall hopes his decision to switch Strettle to the left wing might prompt a return to the squad to be announced on Wednesday.

McCall said: ‘David has really
relished the chance to play on the left wing and England don’t have any
out-and-out natural left wingers.’

Strettle showed his try-scoring
ability here by breaking through a stubborn Sale defence in the 62nd
minute of a match dominated until then by the goal-kicking of Owen
Farrell and Danny Cipriani.

Saracens finally cracked the Sale
midfield by using Farrell and substitute Charlie Hodgson as decoy
runners, which allowed Brad Barritt to put Strettle in the clear.

Sale's James Gaskell tries to break through the midfield

Scrap: Sale's James Gaskell tries to break through the midfield

Strettle also delivered the final act
by neatly placing a grubber kick through the Sale defence for Hodgson
to score the second try 10 minutes from time.

Saracens moved second, two points behind Harlequins.

Toby Flood out of New Zealand clash

Farrell set to replace Flood for All Blacks clash as No 10 is sidelined through injury

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UPDATED:

14:50 GMT, 26 November 2012

Toby Flood has been ruled out of England's QBE autumn international against New Zealand with a toe injury, head coach Stuart Lancaster has confirmed.

The Leicester fly-half suffered ligament damage in the big toe of his right foot during England's 16-15 defeat to South Africa.

Owen Farrell, who came off the bench on Saturday, is set to take over at fly-half against the All Blacks with the uncapped Freddie Burns likely to be named on the bench when Lancaster confirms his 23-man squad on Thursday.

Scroll down for video…

Crocked: Flood has been ruled out of England's game with New Zealand

Crocked: Flood has been ruled out of England's game with New Zealand

Lancaster said: 'Toby won't be fit
for the weekend so Freddie Burns has come in and it doesn't take a
rocket scientist to work out he will play some part in the squad.

'Toby's injury isn't as bad as first feared but it will definitely keep him out of this weekend.'

Lancaster is optimistic Alex Corbisiero will be fit to face the All Blacks, although the loosehead prop will not train until Thursday.

Corbisiero was impressive on his international comeback against South Africa, but it was only his third game in five months after recovering from a knee injury and the England medics are being cautious.

Call up: Lancaster has turned to the uncapped Burns

Call up: Lancaster has turned to the uncapped Burns

VIDEO: Haka flashmob take over Trafalgar Square…

DM.has('rcpv1989466880001','BCVideo');

Flashmob organised by Sky Sports. England v All Blacks, Saturday live on
Sky Sports 1 kick-off 2.30pm.

Andy Carroll promises more goals to come

Carroll hopes first goal for West Ham will open floodgates ahead of trip to Man United

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UPDATED:

13:32 GMT, 26 November 2012

Andy Carroll believes there are plenty of goals to come after the West Ham striker broke his duck at Tottenham yesterday.

The England striker netted a consolation at White Hart Lane after a Jermain Defoe double and a neat Gareth Bale goal put West Ham three goals down.

Carroll climbed high to nod a perfectly weighted Joey O’Brien cross into the back of the net, wrong-footing Hugo Lloris in the process.

Gold rush Andy Carroll hopes his first strike for West Ham will open the flood gates

Gold rush Andy Carroll hopes his first strike for West Ham will open the flood gates

After a bittersweet trip to north London, Carroll hopes his first goal in a West Ham shirt will give him the impetus to score a couple more against Manchester United or Chelsea this week.

‘It was about time, to be honest,’ Carroll told West Ham TV. ‘I’m just grateful to have got off the mark and hopefully there will be more to come this week.

‘I think I’ve put myself about and been involved in our goals in previous matches. I think I’ve been doing well so it was about time one went in.

‘It was a great ball in by Joey O’Brien and I just had to get up and head it across the keeper. That’s what I did and thankfully it went in.’

Carroll was left to lament a number of mistakes by West Ham which a ruthless Tottenham side duly punished.

Spurs moved out of sight after Mohamed Diame was mugged by Aaron Lennon who squared to Defoe to put the hosts 3-0 up.

‘It was disappointing as we made mistakes for all three of their goals, really.

‘We should have done better, but they have taken their chances and obviously beat us.

Too late: Carroll's late goal came after Gareth Bale and Tottenham has put three past West Ham

Too late: Carroll's late goal came after Gareth Bale and Tottenham has put three past West Ham

Haunted: Old boy Jermain Defoe scored twice against his former club

Haunted: Old boy Jermain Defoe scored twice against his former club

‘Coming here we were up against a great team and they showed that tonight with the passing, the rhythm and the pace they have got in their team. I have to say we were just disappointed with our mistakes because they cost us.’

But Carroll is refusing to dwell on yesterday’s derby defeat, and is turning his attention towards a tricky visit to Old Trafford on Wednesday, before games against Chelsea and Liverpool further down the line.

Next up: Carroll and West Ham travel to Old Trafford

Next up: Carroll and West Ham travel to Old Trafford

‘We have got a tough week, obviously, with Manchester United and then Chelsea and Liverpool coming up. It’ll be tough so we just have to put this behind us now and focus on Wednesday.

“Of course, the big games are what everyone looks forward to, but tonight was disappointing and we just have to put it behind us now and get ready for the Manchester United game.

'This game is all gone now so we’re going to have to concentrate 100 per cent on Wednesday, which is going to be another tough game.’

Kevin Nolan's touches against Tottenham

Andy Carroll's touches against Tottenham

Spot the difference: Andy Carroll's touches against Tottenham (right) in comparison to team-mate Kevin Nolan's (left)

Toby Flood toe injury rules him out of New Zealand clash

Flood blow for England as toe injury rules fly-half out of New Zealand clash

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 25 November 2012

Stuart Lancaster's autumn of discontent looks set to get even worse after first-choice playmaker Toby Flood suffered a serious toe injury that looks certain to rule him out of next week's clash with New Zealand.

The fly-half suffered the injury in the early stages of his side's 16-15 defeat by South Africa at Twickenham as England suffered their second loss to a Southern Hemisphere side in a week and their fourth in six games under coach Lancaster.

Black day: Toby Flood was forced to come off just after half-time against South Africa

Black day: Toby Flood was forced to
come off just after half-time against South Africa

Yesterday's defeat, following on from last week's 20-14 loss Australia, ended in controversial fashion as England captain Chris Robshaw instructed Flood's second-half replacement, Owen Farrell, to kick a penalty with a fourpoint deficit on the scoreboard and less than two minutes remaining.

Robshaw appeared to change his mind after initially opting to kick to the corner, telling frustrated Farrell to instead kick for the posts, leading to confusion and a needless delay.

Farrell, who clearly wanted to kick for the corner in the hope of securing a drive over try from a line-out, kicked the three points on offer, but with the seconds ticking down, England lock Mauritz Botha dropped the ball from South Africa's restart and the Springboks were able to hack the ball into touch to claim a narrow victory.

It added up to another miserable afternoon for Lancaster, who was last night considering his options at fly-half after Flood had an X-ray and was spotted leaving Twickenham with his right foot in a protective boot.

While the X-ray revealed no break to the bone, it is understood that Flood suffered ligament damage in a collision with two South African players and he will be out of action for up to four weeks.

That will rule him out of Saturday's clash with the world champion All Blacks, giving Lancaster an extra headache following his side's latest disappointment. Flood missed two kicks out of four at goal yesterday as England were unable to capitalise on a glut of firsthalf possession.

This meant they were unable to claw their way back from a 16-9 deficit just after half-time when South Africa Willem Alberts scored a fortuitous try.

Toby Flood: What a shocker… England were second-best in every area

Toby Flood: What a shocker… England were second-best in every area

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UPDATED:

22:16 GMT, 17 November 2012

I can 't remember the last time I felt this frustrated after a Test match.

A win was there for the taking. Instead we lost, and we deserved to lose, because they were better than us in many areas: from a skills point of view; from decision-making and, most of all, with how they managed the game.

You can talk about positives but you have to be honest in rugby and the truth is this is a big blow. We came into this game full of confidence after drawing with South Africa last June, and then putting 50 points on Fiji last week.

Going over: Nick Cummins goes past Toby Flood to score

Going over: Nick Cummins goes past Toby Flood to score

It hadn't been the perfect performance but it laid a good foundation. Instead we came second because we just weren't good enough on the day.

There are a number of factors why Australia won.

We had issues at the breakdown and we had issues holding on to the ball and we had issues with some of our skills but that's because we were always trying to force the issue, rather than be patient, and that led to mistakes.

I guess people will highlight some of the penalties spurned.

Our scrum-halves are both instinctive players like all good scrum-halves should be, and although I would have backed myself to have kicked those three points at the end of the first half, Danny Care's decision to take a quick tap led to Manu Tuilagi's try.

It didn't quite work out the same though when Ben Youngs also tapped quickly and went with 11 minutes remaining.

Best men won: Wallaby Nick Cummins celebrates his try with Kurtley Beale

Best men won: Wallaby Nick Cummins celebrates his try with Kurtley Beale

Perhaps that was a time when the context of the game has to be taken into account and, although you never want to curb the instincts of an attacking No. 9, we need to work on our collective composure.

Australia came off a really bad performance and result last week against France and on Saturday they threw caution to the wind and were aggressive in their attack.

Add to that an Australian pack who won more penalties than any other Southern Hemisphere side in the recent Four Nations Championship, and we had our hands full.

We should know how to deal with a situation like this but we are still making far too many mistakes under pressure and being caught out by sides who are taking their chances much better than us.

If you drop even by five percent at this level you almost always have to pay for it, and that's what happened against Australia.

So what now We face South Africa in six days' time and it is fair to say that we will have a hard week trying to eradicate quite a few failings that reared their head against Australia.

Then the All Blacks come to Twickenham the week after. It's clearly a tough couple of Test matches but if we can compose ourselves and start taking the chances that we continue to create then, of course, we can win them.

I'll accept yesterday is not a great platform. We have to start learning right now because I don't want to feel like this again for a long time.

Good read helps give me a kick…

Some of the London-based boys were able to get away for the night on Tuesday to go back and see their families.

But for those of us living further afield, we'll spend the majority of our time at the England squad's base at Pennyhill Park.

Of course, it can get a little claustrophobic at times but it's a fantastic facility and there are far worse places to be stuck.

When we're not training, I've been catching up on my reading with Tom Wolfe's novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons.

Happy with kicking: England's Toby Flood boots a penalty

Happy with kicking: England's Toby Flood boots a penalty

I was pretty happy with how my goal-kicking went against Fiji.

Goal-kicking is a pretty hard thing to quantify and sometimes it's a very individual art. When I'm with England I have help from kicking coach Jon Callard and I work with Paul Burke back at Leicester.

But quite often I just like to take myself away and work on my own in order to refine the processes and ensure I'm happy with the way I'm striking the ball.

My aim is 2k for hair-raising feat

The moustache I've been growing for the Movember campaign to raise awareness over men's health issues is coming along pretty well.

I'm copping a lot of abuse for it from the rest of the boys, although so far I've managed to escape landing a new nickname.

I'm not taking anything for granted though. I've raised about 800 now and it would be great to make it 2,000 by the end of the month.

At least that would make up for all the dodgy looks I'm getting whenever I walk along the street.

Stuart Lancaster: England must learn lessons before South Africa challenge

Lancaster: England must learn lessons before South Africa challenge

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UPDATED:

18:40 GMT, 17 November 2012

England head coach Stuart Lancaster insists England must learn the lessons of life at the top level of Test rugby after his side were beaten 20-14 by Australia at Twickenham.

A Manu Tuilagi try and three Toby Flood penalties saw England lead 14-11 at half-time before full-back Berrick Barnes kicked three second-half penalties to wrest back the Cook Cup for the Aussies, who bounced back from their thrashing by France last weekend in some style.

The defeat could have long-term significance as it means England, currently ranked fifth in the world, are now unlikely to earn a top seeding for the World Cup on home soil in 2015.

Food for thought: Stuart Lancaster (right) knows England have to improve

Food for thought: Stuart Lancaster (right) knows England have to improve

Lancaster said: 'I'm disappointed we lost but I thought Australia played a smart game and bounced back from their defeat against France last week and were competitive in all areas.

'There were lots of positives from our own performance but the reality is we needed to take the opportunities we created, especially in the last 20 minutes when we thought our tempo would pay.

'They are the lessons we have to learn for South Africa next week.'

Some of those opportunities were squandered when England twice took decisions in the second half to tap and go or kick for touch with penalties rather than kick for goal.

Dejected: England players react to defeat against Australia

Dejected: England players react to defeat against Australia

However, Lancaster backed his players.

He said: 'We'll look at every decision but with the momentum at the time I thought it was the right decision. You back your players on the field. The momentum was with us and I thought from there we were going to score a try.

'If we are going to give players the confidence to go out and play then we have to back them.

'We have areas to work on, but there was lots of intent to play. It was just little bits of execution towards the end of each phase that put us under pressure.'

Australia scored the game's first try through wing Nick Cummins, who finished off a scything move with aplomb for his first international touchdown.

Flying winger: Australia'sNick Cummins bursts through to score

Flying winger: Australia's Nick Cummins bursts through to score

Barnes added a drop goal and a penalty in the first half and England's fate might have been different if number eight Thomas Waldrom had not spilled the ball in the act of touching down.

Lancaster, however, was upbeat, believing his players can turn things around for their encounter against South Africa next weekend.

'They are all must-win games,' he admitted. 'We're devastated to have lost this game. We didn't quite take our opportunities and at this level we must take it. They managed the breakdown better.'

Asked if seven days was enough time to put things right, Lancaster added: 'Of course it is. Every game's a new game. You learn, review and move on.

'We have got to be better. Australia proved in their 18-18 draw with New Zealand they can put out a performance at the top end and they have done that today.

'We'll look at the tape and talk it through, train and learn our lessons.'

Tough defence: Australia's Nick Cummins tackles Brad Barritt of England

Tough defence: Australia's Nick Cummins tackles Brad Barritt of England

England defence coach Andy Farrell was also impressed with the Australian performance. He said: 'Australia played a very smart game. Their attack was good and asked a lot of questions. We weathered the storm but theirs was a messy breakdown and penalties and it was stop-start.

'But all round you have to take your hat off to Australia. They didn't look desperate, they looked controlled.'

Australia head coach Robbie Deans felt his side had regained their winning mentality following their 33-6 defeat against France last weekend.

Victory!: Australia celebrate as the final whistle goes at Twickenham

Victory!: Australia celebrate as the final whistle goes at Twickenham

He said: 'It was much better than last week and obviously it had to be.

'A big part of the adjustment was mental. Paris is a bit alluring but in Tests you have to turn up or you get blown away.

'The lads defended very well because England threw a lot at them. The boys had a lot of faith in the defensive line and I think that showed. I think we went a bit defensive in the last 10 but that was indicative of the confidence they had and their ability to hold their line.

'Any result at Twickenham is significant, it doesn't come easily here. I'm pleased for the lads.'

Deans refused to criticise England for squandering their penalty chances.

He said: 'They wanted to win the game. We had been competitive in field position. You make those decisions in real time and that was an indication of what they were feeling in the contest.

Trophy time: Australia regained the Cook Cup

Trophy time: Australia regained the Cook Cup

'It was a remarkable Test when you consider how intense it was. In the 80th minute the intensity was still there around the contact. That is the nature of Test football now, there is no let-up.

'We would rather have scored more tries but when your opponent concedes penalties sometimes you just have to bank it and come back again.'

Aussie try scorer Cummins was delighted just to savour his first touchdown for his country.

'It was great to get a bit of meat, especially in front of a crowd like that,' said Cummins. 'It was great.'

LIVE: England v Fiji

England 33 Fiji 0: Follow all the action from Twickenham as it happens

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UPDATED:

15:52 GMT, 10 November 2012

England kick-off the QBE autumn internationals against Fiji where they can lay the foundations for a successful series involving the world's best teams. Stuart Lancaster's side are massive favourites for the opening clash at Twickenham and Sportsmail will bring you all the action as it happens.

England v Fji

ENGLAND – 15 Alex Goode, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Joe Marler, 7 Tom Youngs, 6 Dan Cole, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Geoff Parling , 3 Tom Johnson, 2 Chris Robshaw, 1 Thomas Waldrom.

Replacements: Paice, Wilson, Vunipola, Launchbury, Wood, Youngs, Farrell, Brown.

FIJI – 15 Simeli Koniferedi, 14 Samu Wara, 13 VEreniki Goneva, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Metuisela Talebula, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Malakai Ravulo, 6 Api Naikatini, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Penijamini Makutu

Replacements: Somoca, Naureure, Manasa, Kalou, Ratuva, Bola, Fatiaki, Matavesi.

49min: CONVERSION! England 35 Fiji 0 (Toby Flood)

England must be buoyed by these early exchanges in the second-half. There are gaps appearing all over the field. The phrase I'm thinking of is: fill your boots.

49min: TRY! England 33 Fiji 0 (Tom Johnson)

Fourth try of the afternoon for England. Once again Fiji are sucked in and the hosts work it wide to Johnson who drops over the line, totally unopposed.

47min: England profligate in front of the try line. Danny Care shimmies and shakes, but is held up five metres short. And then Dan Cole goes over the lines but is turned round and held up.

43min: PENALTY! England 28 Fiji 0 (Toby Flood)

Straight forward effort for Flood who sends the ball over from 25 metres out.

42min: The scrum is once again proving to be a real problem for Fiji who collapse again all too easily. Penalty for England, Toby Flood stands over it.

SECOND-HALF: Suitably refreshed good. Toby Flood gets the match restarted.

HALF-TIME: ENGLAND 25 FIJI 0

A rusty start for Stuart Lancaster's charges, but once they found a modicum of rhythm the Fijians looked outclassed at every encounter. Job well done thus far, fancy it will be a very long next 40 for the Pacific Islanders.

42min: England 25 Fiji 0 (Ugo Monye)

Cherry on the cake for England as Monye shimmies his hips on the wing and crosses for an all-too-easy score. Flood's conversion effort rattles off the upright. And that is that.

38min: England unlucky not to score another try, Flood and Care right at the heart of all the positive play, the ball works wide, Sharples kicks forward and it looks like he's just got the ball down. But replays show the last bounce took the ball *this far* into touch.

37min: CONVERSION! England 20 Fiji 0 (Toby Flood)

Over it goes, England looking good for their lead now. One more score before half-time would round-off a decent first 40.

Contact: Waldrom is tackled by Qera

Contact: Waldrom is tackled by Qera

36min: PENALTY TRY! England 18 Fiji 0 England smell blood with a pair of scrums under the Fijians posts. The first collapses, the second is broken by the Fijian hooker and the referee has no option but to award a penalty try.

33min: Oh, good grief, what an absolute howler. England waste a guilt-edged chance to extend their lead further. Flood draws the defenders in, but the ball is worked wide and there a three man overlap, which is lobbed into touch somehow.

The view from Cardiff with Sportsmail's Luke Bendict: Well that's the end of a nightmare week for Jamie Roberts. He was desperate for an explosive return to Welsh rugby after it was announced this week that he'll quit Cardiff Blues this summer, but instead he hobbles off after a horrible clash of heads. He looked like he'd gone 12 rounds with Tyson. There was no way he could play on.

29min: YELLOW CARD! Now the Fijians are down to 14 after their captain is shown a yellow card for some rather cynical stuff in the ruck. And now he's put his side under huge pressure.

26min: PENALTY! England 13 Fiji 0 (Toby Flood)

England pile forward and there's a hand in the ruck by a Fiji player. Flood dips the ball over from no ore than 10 metres out. Stuart Lancaster's side have blown away the cobwebs now and are looking good.

23min: CONVERSION! England 10 Fiji 0 (Toby Flood)

England extend their lead, Flood makes no mistake.

22min: TRY! England 8 Fiji 0 (Charlie Sharples)

It's a great finish from Sharples who scores his first try for England, but Fiji will be kicking themselves. Tuilagi feeds Goode who hands to Sharples whose angled run cuts a swathe through the Fiji defence he brushes off three tackles and just makes it over the line.

21min: Danny Care returns and we're back to 15 v 15 again.

20min: PENALTY! England 3 Fiji 0 (Toby Flood)

Flood sends the ball over for the first three points of the match. Twickenham sighs with relief.

Sharp stuff: England finally get on the scoreboard courtesy of Sharples' try

Sharp stuff: England finally get on the scoreboard courtesy of Sharples' try

19min: Much, much, much (much) better phases from England. Workign the ball left and right, Flood nearly found the gap and Parling did his best to pile through. The up-shot England penalty… Flood stands over it.

17min: Fiji spun another decent penalty chance. England should be six-down inside the first 15. The crowd are getting restless, they want to see some quality in hand from their charges.

14min: England defending desperately deep inside their 22, Fiji pressing and probing for a weak spot. This is NOT a good start. Some respite for the hosts as Fiji make a hash of a scrum, Flood can lump clear.

12min: Real scare for England as the Fiji forwards cut a swathe through the heart of the England defence. Some last-ditch stuff from Tuilagi and Barritt halt the charge.

10min: Early blow for England as Danny Care is shown a yellow card for a spear tackle. We're shown the incident again and it looks like a mighty harsh decision.

(in other news: South Africa prop Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira was treated in hospital today after suffering mild heart palpitations – but we hear he has now left)

6min: It's all a bit scrappy in these early stages. Neither side retaining possession with much grace, England have steamrolled the visitors in the first scrum and Fiji wasted a very kickable penalty attempt.

2min: First lineout for Youngs to negotiate, which he does with without too much fuss.

KICK-OFF: Fiji start the match, it's knocked forward, England clear their lines…

2.28: How rude of me, we have the pleasure of watching the Fijians lay down the gauntlet with the 'Cibi' war dance before kick-off. Plenty of eyes bulging, and thigh slapping. They look like they mean it to me.

2.24: HQ is packed to the rafters. Huge expectation building ahead of kick-off. Players are in the tunnel, we'll have anthems, then action very soon. Tidy.

England expects: The fans are in good spirits ahead of kick-off at Twickenham

England expects: The fans are in good spirits ahead of kick-off at Twickenham

England expects: The fans are in good spirits ahead of kick-off at Twickenham

2.20: Huge focus on Tom Youngs at No 2 today. England's hooker will be at the heart of the lineout – have a butchers at Ben Kay's analysis of the fine art behind throwing.

2.15: Granted, Fiji aren't a team stacked with famous faces. If you're playing catch up, have a read of Rob Wildman's scouting report. Quick, kick-off is only 15 minutes away.

2.10: Stuart Lancaster says today is time for England to 'produce the goods'. Read Chris Foy's match preview right here.

2pm: Hello there, this is going to be a cake walk, right England begin their autumn internationals this afternoon against an under strength Fiji side at Rugby HQ – there's much talk of a victory margin of 50-plus. Nothing quite like setting yourself up for a fall.

Afternoon all and welcome to Sportsmail's coverage of England v Fiji from Twickenham. The hosts are massive favourites to put the Pacific Islanders to the sword and will be hoping to put on a show in front of the 82,000 fans packed into the stadium in south-west London.

I'll bring you all the action as it happens and you can fire your thoughts in this direction: [email protected] or you can Tweet.

England expects: Chris Robshaw will lead his team out against Fiji in the first of the Autumn Tests

England expects: Chris Robshaw will lead his team out against Fiji in the first of the Autumn Tests

Rod Stewart bursts into tears after Celtic"s historic win over Barcelona

We are WAILING! Rod Stewart bursts into tears after Celtic's historic win over Barca

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UPDATED:

22:55 GMT, 7 November 2012

It all got a little bit much for Rod Stewart as he watched his beloved Celtic run out victors against one of the best sides in world football at Parkhead.

The former Faces frontman was in the stands cheering on his Bhoys – on the week of the club’s 125th anniversary – on a momentous night in Glasgow.

Victor Wanyama and teenager Tony Watt bagged a goal a piece, as a Lionel Messi-led fightback came all too late for the Spanish giants, handing Celtic a 2-1 win.

We are wailing: Emotions got the better of Rod Stewart as he burst into tears after the final whistle

We are wailing: Emotions got the better of Rod Stewart as he burst into tears after the final whistle

We are wailing: Emotions got the better of Rod Stewart as he burst into tears after the final whistle

But as the swathes of Celtic fans bounced to the tune of Depeche Mode’s I Just Can’t Get Enough at the final whistle and Neil Lennon ran onto the pitch, an overwhelmed Stewart was left in flood of tears as he came to grips with one of Celtic’s great nights in European competition across the ages.

As he blubbers uncontrollably and holds a handkerchief to his eyes and mouth, a friend grabs him as if to say: ‘We’ve done it!’

Celtic were unable to hang on for a draw two weeks ago at the Nou Camp, where Jordi Alba grabbed a last-dicth winner after Barca relentlessly pressed throughout the second half.

But this time a robust Celtic outfit were more than up to the task.

All smiles: Earlier in the game Stewart appeared a little calmer

All smiles: Earlier in the game Stewart appeared a little calmer

Messi finally beat the near-impregnable Fraser Forster just after the 90th minute, but there wasn’t enough time for Tito Vilanova’s men to spoil the party this time.

So strong is the 67-year-old rocker’s love for Celtic, that he mentions the club in his 1977 hit You’re In My Heart.

He sings: ‘You're an essay in glamour/Please pardon the grammar/But you're every schoolboy's dream/You're Celtic, United, but baby I've decided/You're the best team I've ever seen’

But based on the images on Sky Sports after Celtic’s 2-1 win, another of his hits springs to mind.

‘It’s a heartache, nothing but a heartache…’

Disbelief: 18-year-old Tony Watt took 11 minutes before scoring against Barcelona

Disbelief: 18-year-old Tony Watt took 11 minutes before scoring against Barcelona

Ronnie O"Sullivan speaks out about snooker quit threat

Take me out of snooker and I couldn't do life: O'Sullivan speaks out about quit threat

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UPDATED:

12:33 GMT, 7 November 2012

Ronnie O’Sullivan has hinted his sabbatical from snooker could mean 'the chapter’s over'.

O’Sullivan announced on Tuesday that he will not compete again this season, a move attributed by his manager Django Fung to 'Ronnie's own personal problems, his health, travelling, children, family and so on' and one which casts doubt on whether he will be seen on the tour again.

On a break: Ronnie O'Sullivan is on the verge of quitting snooker after pulling out of the rest of the season

On a break: Ronnie O'Sullivan is on the verge of quitting snooker after pulling out of the rest of the season

On a break: Ronnie O'Sullivan (left) is on the verge of quitting snooker after pulling out of the rest of the season
SPEAKING OUT ABOUT DEPRESSION

Rugby star Toby Flood: 'It made me ask myself if it was something I really wanted to do. I was very disillusioned. I wasn't enjoying my rugby, my form dipped and, looking back, it was pretty scary.'

Boxer Ricky Hatton: 'I was near to a nervous breakdown, depression, suicidal. Most mornings my girlfriend would have to come downstairs and take a knife out of my hand. I had a knife at my wrists, I was in a really bad way, just hysterically crying for no reason.

Everton striker Victor Anichebe: 'There were plenty of times when I was at a low ebb. To come back after 12 months, get injured again, and then again, I began to ask whether it was worth it. It's hard for people to know what really understand what it is like being injured. It is not just physical, it is mental too.'

Golfer Paul Lawrie: 'I had no energy and didn't want to play or practise. I couldn't get out of bed. I didn't want to be with the kids. I didn't even want to see them. I went through tablets without feeling any more positive. I'd just lie on the couch and watch television.'

Cricketter Tim Ambrose: 'I was awake 24 hours a day, with things going around in my head' he said. 'I was beyond miserable. It felt like I had this duvet that was soaking wet wrapped around me, and I couldn't get it off.'

And speaking on Ronnie O'Sullivan:
Sports Life Stories, a pre-recorded documentary broadcast on ITV4, the
four-time world champion gave an insight into the emotional difficulties
he has suffered during his career.

'The most important thing, the
biggest love of my life, is my snooker,' he said. 'I've never been so
emotionally ingrained in something – in a person, an object, anything –
as I have in snooker.

'I don’t think I suffered with
depression, I don’t think I’m a depressed type of person – I just think I
suffered a depression to do with snooker, and I just couldn’t handle
it.

'I could go out and play, but take me
out of there and I couldn’t do life.

'It was a nightmare, my life just
felt like a bit of a nightmare.'

The problems came to a head in 2001, ahead of his first World Championship win.

'A week before that World
Championship, I was down the doctor's,' he said. 'Then I was in my room
in Sheffield and they said “can you do a radio interview” I felt so
brittle – I said yes, but I thought “how am I going to get through this,
and not let them know that I'm suffering”

'I was blabbering on, spurting words
out, and it was live but I just said, “do you know what, I ain’t feeling
too good. I’m suffering here, talking to you – I’m struggling”.

'I just thought, ‘I can’t hide any more’. I felt like I was going insane.'

No return O'Sullivan has taken several breaks from snooker throughout his career

No return O'Sullivan has taken several breaks from snooker throughout his career

Troubled: O'Sullivan

Troubled: O'Sullivan

The 36-year-old’s career has been peppered with regular threats to retire in recent years, but
O’Sullivan admitted he was driven to continue by the pride of his
father, who remained a key influence on his son’s career even while
spending 17 years in prison for murder.

'I talked about letting go of it but I
just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t walk away because I hadn’t achieved
what I wanted to,' O’Sullivan said. 'I knew if I stopped the snooker, a
lot of my demons would be gone, but I couldn’t walk away.

'My dad said “every time I see you on
the telly, it’s like a visit”. And he had 10 years left, so I had to
play for at least another 10 years. I wanted to walk away, but there was
that pressure there of trying to do the right thing for somebody else.'

Reflecting on a career which has
brought him four UK and four World Championships among 24 ranking
titles, he said: 'I’ve got through it – that’s all I’ve done really.

'All right, I've been successful –
I’ve ticked the boxes, I’ve won the world titles, won this, won that,
become a multiple world champion.'

The most recent of those came in May
of this year and, recalling the win and the emotional celebrations with
his son Ronnie Jr, he said: 'For me that’s like the final chapter. I’ve
done what I’ve had to do. I don’t have to prove myself any more.

'The more they doubt me, the more
it’ll make me want to come back and prove them wrong again, and I don’t
want to have to go through it again. I’ve done it. The chapter’s over.'

Toby Flood: I felt guilty about what went on at the World Cup

Flood: I felt guilty by association with what went on at the World Cup and just wanted to walk away from the game

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UPDATED:

22:09 GMT, 3 November 2012

Had it not been for the realisation
after weeks of soul-searching that he was still in love with rugby, Toby
Flood would not be running out on Saturday for England to face Fiji at
Twickenham, but watching the game on TV as a prematurely retired player.

Flood, with 50 caps to his name, may
be the most experienced man in Stuart Lancaster's new-look England
set-up, but so disillusioned was the Leicester and England stand-off by
events both on and off the field during last autumn's Rugby World Cup
that he admits he nearly walked away from the game.

'The World Cup made me question
whether it was all worth it,' said the man who will command the pivotal
position in England's four autumn Tests, beginning with Fiji on Saturday.

Dejected: Toby Flood reacts to defeat in the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Dejected: Toby Flood reacts to defeat in the 2011 Rugby World Cup

'It made me ask myself if it was something I really wanted to do. I was very disillusioned. I wasn't enjoying my rugby, my form dipped and, looking back, it was pretty scary. All I knew was that I couldn't go through what I experienced during and after the World Cup again. I could easily have walked away from the game.'

The fact that he did not was down to the advice of those closest to him and as a result of watching the likes of Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell play for England in the No 10 jersey during this year's Six Nations tournament.

'I sat down and spoke to a great deal of friends and peers about how I felt,' said 27-year-old Flood.

Bad behaviour: Manu Tuilagi's jump into Auckland harbour was symptomatic of England's problems at the Rugby World Cup

Bad behaviour: Manu Tuilagi's jump into Auckland harbour was symptomatic of England's problems at the Rugby World Cup

'I also spoke with my family and they all told me I should carry on. But what proved to be the catalyst was watching others play in the Six Nations in place of me.

'I'd just come back from poor form and then injury and I didn't really get a look-in during the Six Nations. My passion for the game had deserted me and I was trying to rediscover the love. For the first time since before the World Cup I felt that knot in my stomach watching the Six Nations.

'I wasn't jealous of any individuals. But I realised I missed that moment of elation, five minutes after the game is won, when you sit in the dressing room, look across at a team- mate and smile. Any player who has retired will tell you. That's what you miss more than any other part of the game.'

Flood 's World Cup depression was understandable. On the field England fell in the quarterfinals to France after an appalling first-half display, while off the field the squad became embroiled in a series of incidents that cast doubt on their discipline and maturity and led, ultimately, to the resignation of manager Martin Johnson and a cull of senior players under Lancaster's new regime this year.

'Having played in the 2007 World Cup final and having loved the experience so much, I knew how badly we blew it last year,' said Flood.

'We had a path to the final via France in the quarter-finals and Wales in the semis – teams we had beaten in the Six Nations and summer World Cup warm-up games,' said Flood. 'But we didn't attack the opportunity with anywhere near enough vigour.

'And, of course, off the field it didn't exactly go to plan either. On a number of occasions there were situations that were poor from the individuals concerned. I'm fully aware of what we did.'

Flood is as far removed from the testosterone-fuelled goldfish bowl of professional rugby as can be imagined.

Back in business: Toby Flood in training with England ahead of the test against Fiji

Back in business: Toby Flood in training with England ahead of the test against Fiji

He does not fall out of taxis in the small hours nor tread the red carpet at film premieres.

He does not chase publicity and is happiest simply chewing the fat with members of the front five from his club, Leicester, over a coffee, or gardening, or, as he did last week, visiting Paris with his girlfriend, Sally, to take in some of that city's cultural attractions.

'When I first picked up a rugby ball and ran with it, I did it for the enjoyment of the game,' he said. 'Nothing's really changed. When I am playing, I accept that I am in the full glare of the rugby-following public, the game in general and the media. But I don't do this to be a celebrity or to be on the front pages of the papers. I don't want to be recognised. I just want to play rugby to the best of my ability and lead my own life away from the job.

'That's why I enjoy the company of the Leicester props and locks so much. It may look strange, a “pretty boy” back hanging out with the engine room, but they're honest men in the way they approach their job and their lives. As a rugby player, I can't do something like go skiing even if I wanted to. So instead I find things to do to escape from the goldfish bowl of professional rugby. That's why I enjoy gardening or fishing and walking my black Labrador. '

Two of a kind: Toby Flood (right) and the man he replaced as England fly-half, Jonny Wilkinson

Two of a kind: Toby Flood (right) and the man he replaced as England fly-half, Jonny Wilkinson

Nowhere was the attention greater, or less welcome, than at the World Cup. Flood said: 'I didn't want the full glare of publicity or to be made to feel guilty by association with what went on in New Zealand. The world I found myself in, with seemingly the eyes of everyone on us, was one I don't want any part of.'

Some of his England colleagues have had to change their ways following the fall-out from the World Cup.

Not so Flood, which, when you realise who mentored him during his embryonic rugby days up in Newcastle, is perhaps unsurprising.

'I grew up watching and then being taught how to play rugby by Jonny,' said Flood, feeling – rightly – no need to add the surname of Wilkinson.

'I watched how he went about his business, both on and off the field. He understood the ways of the modern rugby player long before most others and it rubbed off on me.

'When I got back last year from the World Cup, I asked myself whether the squad, at any time, understood how difficult it could be for us, or realised just how much scrutiny we would be under.

'The answer is clear, which is why so many aspects of the World Cup left me analysing my own behaviour on and off the field and my desire.'

Twelve months on and so much is different. England are now under Lancaster's guidance, they finished a creditable second place in the Six Nations with a much-changed and vastly younger team, and then returned from South Africa with two narrow defeats and a draw.

And Flood is back in the No 10 jersey, although with the likes of Farrell, Freddie Burns and even George Ford at Leicester seemingly snapping at his heels, his position still seems far from secure.

'That goes with the territory,' he said. 'The irony isn't lost on me that for a man who doesn't like the spotlight I play at 10. Sometimes I wish I played at six. Not that it's easier, but what you do, good and bad, doesn't get noticed by 90 per cent of the people.

'I like the challenge and I don't spend a moment worrying about others playing better than me. After a while it's not about a good game here and there, it's about narrowing the gap between good and bad games to the point where you reach a consistent level at Test match standard.

Rivals: Charlie Hodgson (front) and Owen Farrell are among several fly-halfs challenging Toby Flood

Rivals: Charlie Hodgson (front) and Owen Farrell are among several fly-halfs challenging Toby Flood

'I'm not saying it doesn't hurt if you get dropped, as I was for Jonny in the World Cup, but Test match rugby today is not just about the 15 who start, nor even the 22 who run out for the game, but the 30-odd in the squad, because at any given moment you will be required to take your chance. If it all ended today, I'd be very happy with what I've achieved. I'm more concerned by my evolution as a person than as a rugby player.'

Which is why Flood will be in the City of London on his day off this week, doing work experience with an insurance broker, and why last week he was coaching at a school in Wimbledon.

'I hope I have another five or six years in rugby,' he said. 'I'll take my coaching badges but I just want to see what else is out there. There's a lot of life to live, isn't there'

And with that, the reluctant star of English rugby headed off to catch his train to Paris where, for now at least, he can enjoy his off-field anonymity before the maelstrom of Test match rugby once again engulfs him.