Tag Archives: younger

Wilfried Zaha can prove himself before he joins Manchester United, says Stuart Pearce

Zaha will show he can handle the big time ahead of United move, says Pearce

and has yet to score but Pearce is set to play him as a central striker in tonight’s friendly against Romania at Wycombe.

The past few months have been high pressure for Zaha. He made his senior England debut in Sweden, joined Manchester United for 15million, was loaned straight back to Palace and earlier this week he was banned for one game by the FA after making an offensive gesture to Leeds supporters.

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Supported: Stuart Pearce is confident Wilfried Zaha can impress

Supported: Stuart Pearce is confident Wilfried Zaha can impress

Pearce, though, has no concerns about Zaha’s mental strength and is expecting him to play a significant role at Euro 2013.

‘We asked Wilf to play centre forward
(against Sweden) last month rather than his natural wide position and we
might do on that again,’ said Pearce. ‘I have to bear in mind that a
lot has happened to Wilf in a short space of time.

‘He’s still one of the younger boys
and will be involved in the next qualification campaign. I’m delighted
with how he’s come in, he seems happy.

Under pressure Zaha's profile has grown considerably this season

Under pressure Zaha's profile has grown considerably this season

ENGLAND UNDER 21 v ROMANIA

ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Butland; Smith, Dawson, Wisdom, Bennett: Henderson, Shelvey: Sterling, Lansbury, Townsend: Zaha.

Kick-off: 7pm, Adams Park

Referee: Jonathan Lardot (Belgium)

TV: LIVE on ESPN from 6.30pm

'I’m seeing the same kid as I did a
couple of months ago. I think Wilf is one of those nice easy going lads
and not much worries him.

‘That’s the impression I get. We see
exactly the same in him as his football.

'Whether he’s gone to United or
stayed at Palace I’ll view him as the same player that’s learning,
maturing and will get better and better.’

It is likely Pearce will play a strong
team tonight and that will include Danny Rose, who will win his first
cap since being sent-off during the Euro 2013 qualifier against Serbia
in October; the Sunderland defender was also subjected to horrific
racial abuse that evening.

Centre forward Pearce says Zaha may have to play through the middle

Centre forward Pearce says Zaha may have to play through the middle

‘What went on in Serbia had nothing to
do with me not picking Danny,’ said Pearce. ‘I just needed to look at a
couple of others. He is suspended for the first game of the
Championship so we’ll have to start with another left back.

‘But he’s too important to me to leave
him out (this summer) for one game. We have Tom Ince missing the first
game, too, but the only way I’d leave someone out is if they were
suspended for all three group games.

'We are playing to win, so I’m
planning to play five games.’

VIDEO: RAHEEM STERLING SCORES TWO WONDER GOALS IN ENGLAND U21S TRAINING

Frankie Gavin takes Junior Witter"s British welterweight title after unanimous points decision

The future's bright for Gavin after beating Witter to claim British welterweight title

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UPDATED:

00:27 GMT, 2 November 2012

Frankie Gavin suggested he may yet realise his undoubted potential by dethroning veteran champion Junior Witter to claim the British welterweight title at York Hall.

The 27-year-old had not fought since May and had mustered just 13 bouts since turning professional over four years ago but proved too strong for Witter who suffered his sixth career defeat in a dull affair.

Gavin, who remains Britain's only world amateur champion, extended his unbeaten record at the iconic London venue and will have his sights set on bigger prizes in 2013.

Celebrate good times: Frankie Gavin is hoisted off the canvas after beating Junior Witter by a unanimous points decision

Celebrate good times: Frankie Gavin is hoisted off the canvas after beating Junior Witter by a unanimous points decision

Witter, 38, won a world title six years ago and claimed the British belt for a second time earlier this year but despite starting brightly, quickly ran out of ideas and was outpointed by margins of 119-109, 117-110 and 117-112.

A tense and cagey opening round was shaded by Witter who produced the cleaner blows while an accidental clash of heads left Gavin with a small cut on the bridge of his nose.

The Birmingham man's face continued to mark up in the second as Witter, a product of the same Wincobank Gym as fellow welterweight Kell Brook, used his right hand to good effect.

Deploying his tried and tested switch-hitting style, Witter banked another round as he continued to control the fight and prevent Gavin from letting his hands go, as highlighted by the younger man's corner.

Breaking out in a sweat: Gavin connects with a savage left jab

Breaking out in a sweat: Gavin connects with a savage left jab

The fourth session was something of a non event with neither man boxing on the front foot but Gavin delivered a timely reminder of his punching power in the next with two solid lefts over the top and although Witter returned the favour later in the round, he conceded his first of the night.

And Gavin, the won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, continued to work his way back into the contest as it reached the halfway stage while Witter fell to the canvas when attempting a rather wild shot.

The bout may have been entering the second half but neither man looked keen to grab it by the scruff of the neck although Gavin looked to have the momentum. He was however warned for hitting the back of the head, something not helped by Witter's tendency to turn away from his opponent.

Gavin was growing in confidence as he took the fight to his opponent and Witter's reluctance to engage provoked his trainer Dominic Ingle to read the riot act at the end of the eighth round.

On the front foot: Witter feels the force of a Gavin attack

On the front foot: Witter feels the force of a Gavin attack

But the champion failed to land a noteworthy punch in the next as the fight slipped away from him and although Gavin was far from fluent, he was doing enough to edge the rounds and increase his narrow advantage.

Witter's efforts to haul himself back into the contest resulted only in him pushing Gavin through the ropes in the tenth stanza and the messy exchanges continued until the former was deducted a point for continued holding which all but ended his brief second reign as domestic No 1.

Witter by now required a knockout to retain his title and he looked for such a punch in the penultimate session but succeeded only in falling significantly short.

The punch never came and Gavin safely saw out the final three minutes to confirm his superiority on all three scorecards.

Getting in a tangle: Gavin gets caught up in the ropes after stumbling

Getting in a tangle: Gavin gets caught up in the ropes after stumbling

London 2012 Olympics: Tom Daley ready for his moment of destiny

It's scary but it's all down now to just six dives: Moment of truth for Tom Daley after his months of personal pain

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UPDATED:

21:18 GMT, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Tom Daley has trained for his Olympic entrance in London on Monday since childhood. But he knows that no amount of preparation can save him from the reality that will confront him when he stands on the end of the 10-metre diving board.

‘You’ve done hundreds of thousands of dives in training but the Olympics will come down to just six dives on the day. That’s scary,’ said Daley.

At 18, he has grown from child protg to a young man carrying a burden of expectation known only to the most hardened of athletes within the British Olympic team.

Great expectations: The pressure is on for Tom Daley

Great expectations: The pressure is on for Tom Daley

‘I try to ignore it,’ said Daley. ‘I focus on what I can control … and I can’t control the expectation. I have medal chances in both my competitions but I’ve always said that to win a medal will be tough. Diving is such an on-the-day sport.’

Daley knows, too, that he must deal with the emotional reaction he will inevitably face when he enters the Olympic arena knowing that his late father, Rob, will not be in the crowd cheering him on.

Perhaps only when Daley looks around the diving pool and sees his mother, Debbie, younger brothers, William and Ben, and his grandparents and other members of his family, will he fully absorb the fact that the man who introduced him to diving, nurtured his ambition and accompanied him around the world draped in an over-sized Union flag is missing.

Taking it all in: Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield enjoy the Opening Ceremony

Taking it all in: Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield enjoy the Opening Ceremony

The 15 months since Rob Daley lost his battle with cancer will be distilled into this instant.

Daley can lay claim to a legitimate challenge for a medal, with partner Pete Waterfield, an Olympic silver medallist, in the synchronised 10-metre platform in the Aquatic Centre tomorrow afternoon. But can he keep control of his mind when confronted with the absence of his father

He vows not to let it overwhelm him — at least until his Olympics end with the 10-metre individual event in 13 days’ time. ‘It’s going to be an emotional time after I’ve finished, definitely,’ said Daley. ‘Me and Dad worked so hard to get here. But I feel he will be looking after me.’

Daley is in peak condition, diving better than ever. His coach, Andy Banks, said: ‘Tom can compartmentalise his life, he always has done. Of course, it’s still very difficult for him to deal with his Dad’s death. But Rob was a strong character and Tom knows he’s doing what Rob wanted.’

The time is now: Daley knows the pressure is on him to deliver

The time is now: Daley knows the pressure is on him to deliver

Banks and Daley will walk into the Aquatic Centre tomorrow with a sense of pride. ‘Somewhere, Rob will be waving a big flag,’ said Banks.

Banks believes Daley’s dive programme has matured to where he can compete, in terms of degree of difficulty, with the best in the world, China’s Qui Bo. ‘We’ve worked on making Tom consistent and confident with what he has developed for London,’ said Banks. ‘I’d have no hesitation in calling him one of the best in the world. It will all come down to a mighty punch-up at the Olympics.’

Waterfield, 31, a father of two and a silver medallist in Athens in 2004, grew up a bus ride away from the Olympic Park and has willingly undergone a course of painful injections to hold his body together for one final afternoon rich in promise.

Going for gold: Daley hopes to do enough to win his diving event

Going for gold: Daley hopes to do enough to win his diving event

‘Tom has been making some high scores,’ he said. ‘Together, our timing has become better and better. We have a real chance of medalling.’

Performance director Alexei Evangulov feels there is a buoyant atmosphere within the team, in no small part created by the profile Daley has given British diving. But while team preparation has been professional, it is light years from the military-like training of the Chinese.

‘The team are so enthusiastic, I love working with them,’ said Evangulov. ‘They listen, they accept my experience. In terms of conditions, the financial support, all this stuff, British Swimming has provided us with everything we need. Our target is between one and three medals with four divers in top-eight positions.

Timing it to perfection: Waterfield says he and Daley are getting their timing right

Timing it to perfection: Waterfield says he and Daley are getting their timing right

‘In China, it’s like the old Soviet Union when I was a diver. I had no funding but we had free pools, free coaches, and we lived on full board. Divers had to fight for survival or be off the programme. It’s the same in China. And the Chinese have been dominating but this time we plan to pick up medals from them. We’d like to destroy their domination.’

Sarah Barrow and Tonia Crouch have elevated themselves to medal-winning candidates since capturing the recent European synchronised championship. ‘It has been a great 12 months,’ said Barrow, 23. ‘Tonia and I have known Tom since he started and we all look up to Tom for the way he has handled things.’

Four years ago, when Daley made his Olympic entrance as a 14-year-old schoolboy in Beijing, his father was easy to spot in the crowd, draped in his flag and cheering loudest of all.

In London, Daley will draw on those memories. And his gift is that, so far, he is emotionally in one piece. Tomorrow will be his greatest test. But once his Games end, hopefully with at least one medal, he can become a son who, in public and in private, can grieve for the loss of his father.

Harry Redknapp is a great tactician, says Joe Jordan

Harry is a master tactician! Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong, says Jordan

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UPDATED:

01:04 GMT, 15 July 2012

Joe Jordan does not waste time on regrets. If there is even one on his mind, it is between him and his maker.

But his frustration at being on the sidelines has increased since he trailed Harry Redknapp out of Tottenham alongside Kevin Bond and Clive Allen nearly five weeks ago in what were the sackings that took football by surprise.

Master tactician: Joe Jordan (left) believes Harry Redknapp is an adept tactician

Master tactician: Joe Jordan (left) believes Harry Redknapp is an adept tactician

For Jordan a spell of enforced DIY and tidying his West Country garden has also given him time to reflect on seven years as Redknapp’s senior coach.

The Scot can offer a unique insight into Redknapp’s managerial style. ‘Some of the things I’ve read since Harry left have made me chuckle,’ he said.

‘We were told he was not only being replaced by a younger man [Andre Villas-Boas], but a young man who was a tactician.

‘It suggests some people don’t rate Harry on tactics. That would be wrong.

'They say his style is about motivation, but he’s far more than being purely a motivator.

Testament: Jordan believes the signing of players like Rafa van der Vaart are proof of that

Testament: Jordan believes the signing of players like Rafa van der Vaart are proof of that

‘No one who knows him or has worked with him would think that. Harry spends a lot of time on preparation.

'He keeps the game simple and wants the players to enjoy what they’re doing. He lets them play and is confident in their ability.

‘They will have responsibilities, but he thinks long and hard about who he names, the teams he wants and the best way to take on the opposition.

You cannot possibly say he is anything other than very tactically aware.

‘He is a brave manager who’ll change things when needed. If it means changing, say, from three defenders he will make that decision.

‘He can blend players, form partnerships. He can mentally picture a Rafael van der Vaart working with a Peter Crouch and scoring goals from the start.

New boy: Andre Villas-Boas replaced Redknapp at Spurs

New boy: Andre Villas-Boas replaced Redknapp at Spurs

‘He has a great memory and will recall a player he saw only once 10 years earlier.’

Jordan has no idea why Spurs dismissed one of England’s top managers after the club’s second top-four finish.

He added: ‘There was a blip, there was the link with the England job, but none of it affected the team. We were still playing well but just not scoring goals.

‘The disappointment was missing out on the Champions League because of Chelsea’s success.

‘Harry’s legacy is a squad that can take the title back to Spurs.’

The frustration for Jordan becomes more intense the nearer the new season approaches and the garden continues to look trim.

‘I’ll keep fit, I will watch matches, I’ll keep in touch with the game. I want to work and so, I think, does Harry.’

Euro 2012: England to go with youth against Norway

The final reckoning: Kids can book a place against France, says Roy

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UPDATED:

00:29 GMT, 26 May 2012

Roy Hodgson has promised to give his starlets the chance to fight for an England shirt against France in Euro 2012 as he launched his blueprint for the future.

The Hodgson reign will start with Andy Carroll and Ashley Young up front against Norway today and Rob Green will be in goal for the first time since the World Cup in South Africa.

The new England boss is also ready to hand teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his debut on the right, probably as a substitute, with James Milner looking likely to start.

Ready Roy Hodgson is set to hand Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his debut

Ready Roy Hodgson is set to hand Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his debut

And 19-year-old Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland was drafted into the squad yesterday after John Ruddy pulled out with a broken finger.

Hodgson said: ‘If this squad are anything like as good as we think they are, you have to believe England has a future.’

He insisted the result of the game is not important and promised to make changes, with captain Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker set to start but play no more than 45 minutes.

He is also considering a closer look at Theo Walcott in the role of central striker after he practised in this formation in his final training session last night in Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadium.

Midfield maestros: Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard will be partnered

Midfield maestros: Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard will be partnered

Carroll, Chamberlain, Walcott and Butland represent a younger generation of talent and Hodgson said: ‘I’d like to think I have the experience and knowledge to lead the nation into the future but football is played by players. They have to do a good job.

‘I’ll be expecting performances from the players because it’s an opportunity for them to prove they should be involved.’

Four Chelsea players and Wayne Rooney will join the squad next week ahead of the final warm-up friendly against Belgium at Wembley.

Blow: John Ruddy (left) has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury

Blow: John Ruddy (left) has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury

Injured Glen Johnson could also be fit to feature in that game and Hodgson’s side will be closer to full strength. Danny Welbeck’s ankle injury will be assessed on Monday.

Goalkpeeper Butland greeted his promotion to the squad by saying: ‘I’m over the moon. It still hasn’t sunk in and I can’t explain how much this means to me. It’s always been a dream of mine to play for my country and this is another step. I cannot wait to join up with the squad, start training and gain some fantastic experience.’

Butland is also hoping to play in the Great Britain Olympic team.

England face Norway in Oslo

Sir Alex Ferguson tells England to pick Rio Ferdinand

Fergie tells England to pick Ferdinand for European Championships

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UPDATED:

21:28 GMT, 7 April 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson believes a rejuvenated Rio Ferdinand should go to the Euro 2012 finals this summer.

Ferguson says his 33-year-old centre-back has been the key to Manchester United's march towards a 20th League Championship title.

United have hunted down rivals Manchester City with seven straight domestic victories, and Ferdinand, written off in some circles earlier this season, playing in every one of them.

Rio's roar: Ferdinand celebrates Manchester United's win over Blackburn

Rio's roar: Ferdinand celebrates Manchester United's win over Blackburn

The United boss said recently he expected six of his players – Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones – to be in the England squad.

Now, he has added Ferdinand, who has had calf, hamstring and back problems for the past three years, to the list.

Ferguson said: 'Rio has had to change his game. He can't rely on his pace the way he used to as a kid. He was such a pure athlete and he was so mobile he could outrun anyone.

'He used to take advantage of that. He can't do that now so his positioning has improved and he plays a bit deeper than he used to.

'Now his experience is a vital part of his game. He has gone a long way to helping Jonny Evans come on and the young keeper [David de Gea], too.

He's Eur man: Ferguson has backed England to take Ferdinand to the Euros

He's Eur man: Ferguson has backed England to take Ferdinand to the Euros

'He has had a lot of responsibility with [Nemanja] Vidic being out. His form is probably his most consistent for a long time.'

Ferdinand, in the continued absence of the injured Vidic, has been a big factor as Ferguson's team have kept four successive clean sheets in the League.

Summer in Ukraine Ferdinand is the man to play at the back for England, according to Ferguson

Summer in Ukraine Ferdinand is the man to play at the back for England, according to Ferguson

'Even though he was more of an athlete in his younger days he would make the odd mistake through his casualness,' said the United boss.

'He had that wee trait in him. Now you don't get any mistakes at all.'

Ferguson revealed that Ferdinand, who has made 391 United appearances since his 30million arrival from Leeds in July 2002, is being treated carefully after being restricted to only 12 outings in 2009-10 and just half of the League fixtures last season.

Ferguson said: 'We don't train him every day. We have a quiet day, as we call it. Rio is 34 in November and he should be OK for another season anyway. Rio is as good as any centre-half in England. He and John Terry are the only experienced defenders England have got.'

He added: 'He has not been in the squad and that is a decision for the next England manager. If it was me then I would take him.'

Paul Collingwood not closing door on ODI return

Ashes hero Collingwood refusing to close door on England one-day return

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UPDATED:

21:45 GMT, 3 April 2012

Paul Collingwood knows he will need a 'miracle' to force his way back into England's limited-overs set-up.

Collingwood retired from Test cricket after helping the national side win the Ashes in Australia last year, but was discarded by England entirely following a loss of form.

The 35-year-old failed to deliver in the World Cup with both bat and ball and he has not been called upon since England suffered a shock defeat in the competition to Bangladesh in March 2011.

Never say never: Collingwood is still hoping for an England comeback

Never say never: Collingwood is still hoping for an England comeback

Nevertheless, while Collingwood is pragmatic about his chances of a return to the fold, he is refusing to give up hope completely.

Speaking at Durham's media day at the Emirates Durham ICG on Tuesday, he said: 'I'm very realistic. I'm still available in one-day internationals and Twenty20s – I haven't retired from them yet.

'I do realise it will take pretty much a miracle to get back into that side.

'I know England will be looking at the younger generation coming through but I'm going to keep it open because I find it a big motivation in trying to get back into the side.

'It's something that drives me on all the time and trying to become a better player and you just never know what can happen.

Ashes hero: Collingwood celebrates success in Sydney last year

Ashes hero: Collingwood celebrates success in Sydney last year

'If you have a good two or three months of playing really well and England have a couple of injuries, you just never know.'

The all-rounder, who became the first England captain to win a global tournament when his side triumphed in the 2010 World Twenty20, is not resting on his laurels and is determined to play a starring role for Durham in all three domestic competitions this year.

'My sole focus for this next six months – and for the next three years because I've signed a three-year contract – is to do well for Durham and hopefully drive Durham to get some silverware, win things and hopefully I can play well personally and score some big runs,' he said.

Six Nations 2012: Rhys Priestland v Owen Farrell

Priestland v Farrell: Let battle begin to decide who is lord of the flys

Wales coach Neil Jenkins believes the
battle of the fly-halves at Twickenham may be the first chapter in a
long-standing rivalry between Rhys Priestland and Owen Farrell.

The former fly-half, who played 87
times for Wales in the famous No 10 shirt, is better placed than most to
pass judgment on the personal duel that could define tomorrow's Triple
Crown showdown.

 Owen Farrell

Rhys Priestland

Head to head: Rhys Priestland and Owen Farrell

Jenkins said: 'These two guys are certainly going to have a few head-to-heads in the next couple of years. They're two outstanding players with bright futures ahead of them. It will be a good battle.'

It was at Twickenham in the summer where Priestland was suddenly promoted from relative unknown to World Cup fly-half after Stephen Jones had injured himself in the warm-up.

He proved well capable of dealing with the occasion, and Jenkins expects Farrell to be similarly coolheaded in the line of fire.

'Farrell is a tremendously talented player and they are letting him have a crack at the No 10 jersey,' he said.

'He reminds me a lot of Jonny Wilkinson in his younger days. He's a very good kicker of the ball, defensively he's very quick and he's a good distributor. He's going to be a huge challenge for us.'

Switching positions before his first game for England at Twickenham will not faze the 20-year-old – who is five years younger than his opposite number with only two caps to his name.

'Playing in the centre and then moving into the No 10 slot is something he will do very comfortably,' Jenkins said.

He also acknowledges that the return of Manu Tuilagi at centre gives England more firepower in the midfield.

He said: 'He's a huge threat. We will have to watch him very closely.'

James Hook has failed to recover from chickenpox in time for the game tomorrow so Jones comes into Wales's match-day 22 and will sit on the substitutes' bench.

Phil Taylor crashes out of Ladbrokes World Darts Championship

Power failure as 15-time World Darts Champion Taylor falls to Chisnall

As with every seismic shock in sport,those who were crammed into the Alexandra Palace on Tuesday will forever remember the night when Phil Taylor”s aura of invincibility was obliterated by Dave Chisnall.

The 31-year-old had toscrap his way through the PDC qualifying school 11 months ago in order to earn his Tour card.

His aim back in January was to earn enough money in 2011 to justi fy his decision to turn professional.

Shock result: Chisnall (left) is congratulated by Taylor

Shock result: Chisnall (left) is congratulated by Taylor

What he did not imagine even in his private musings was that he would become the first man in 19 stagings of the Ladbrokes PDC darts world championship to knock 15-times world champion Taylor out before the quarter-finals.

As the 4-1 scoreline indicated, Chisnall”s victory was not even close. He matched Taylor in the heaviness of scoring and when it came to the crucial doubles, the younger man held his nerve while, for once, Taylor”s deserted him.

Even when Taylor trailed 3-1, an air of inevitability still filtered among the capacity 2,500 Ally Pally crowd that the 51-year-old would emerge victorious in the end.

Power outage: Taylor shows his frustration during his 4-1 defeat to Chisnall

Power outage: Taylor shows his frustration during his 4-1 defeat to Chisnall

After all, the likes of Raymond van Barneveld and Mark Webster may have suffered early-round defeats, but Taylor has always been a darting icon above all that.

When he didn”t recover, stunned looks accompanied raucous cheers. Taylor, who is known at “The Power” said: “Dave battered me tonight. He was brilliant. He beat me fair and square, 4-1 is a ridiculous score, but I missed doubles at crucial times.

“If I had got them, it would have put him under pressure and maybe been a different story. The heat got to me on stage tonight, but I am not about to start making excuses. Dave handled the heat better than I did.

“But it”s not like I”m Ricky Hatton who”s been knocked out. I”ve just lost a darts match.”

For Chisnall, who now plays Andy Hamilton, it was the proudest moment of his career.

Two years ago, when he was still working in a darts shop in St Helens, he reached the final of the rival BDO world championship.

Now his ambition knows no bounds.

“Yes, I can win this tournament now”, he said. “This win won”t change how I prepare for my next match but yes, I will dream of it forever.

“I knew I was playing the best but when I got up there on stage I felt good.

“It was a massive thing to win the first set. Phil won the throw at bull in the practice room but gave me the darts, as he normally does. If he had had them, he might have won that first set and it would have been a totally different game then.

“There is still nothing wrong with his game but if other players are getting better, he might have noticed that.”

Jonny Wilkinson inspired me to be a perfect 10, admits Toby Flood

Wilkinson inspired me to be a perfect 10, admits England rival Flood

Toby Flood starts a new era of keeping the wolves at bay rather than chasing his friend and rival Jonny Wilkinson.

Wilkinson”s decision to quit Test rugby should leave Flood England”s undisputed No 10, but that is not howthe modest Leicester playmaker views the run-up to the Six Nations.

He starts the Tigers” crucial Heineken Cup game at home against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday accepting that Wilkinson”s departure has served to heighten the pressureon him.

Team spirit: Wilkinson and Flood

Team spirit: Wilkinson and Flood

Flood has dubbed his rivals “wolves” and believes he will have to fend off the likes of Saracens” Charlie Hodgson and the Northampton pair of Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb to keep hold of the England shirt.

“For me the departure of Jonny heightens the sense of responsibility and the need to improve,” said Flood. “The pressure will come from below, because you are now not trying to follow somebody, but trying to keep the wolves from the door. There are a lot of guys playing some good stuff which keeps you on your toes.”

Flood, 26, was among Newcastle”s youth players when Wilkinson was at his zenith in the build-up to England”s 2003 World Cup triumph.

The way he trained and perfected his goal-kicking left a huge impression on Flood and others coming through the Newcastle system led by Mathew Tait, Jamie Noon, Tom May and Phil Dowson. “I think you would have been daft not to have gained something from him,” said Flood.

“When I was 16 or 17 and he was top of the world he had a huge influence. He could have led a celebratory lifestyle, but he just shut up shop and got on with his day job. As a younger man who saw what he was doing it made you put in the same amount of training. You were always trying to get to his level.”

The Tigers lost 30-12 to Clermont in France last Sunday, when Flood missed two kicks. It was a frustrating afternoon for Leicester, who fell away after Manu Tuilagi and George Chuter were sin-binned in the 49th minute for dangerous tackles.

“We were in the game but found ourselves chasing very quickly,” said Flood. “But we know we have the ability to turn the screw on them.”