EXCLUSIVE: Flood admits he's jealous of Farrell’s role in England's Six Nations revival
21:51 GMT, 24 March 2012
What more can I do Toby Flood
Toby Flood insists he is not the jealous type. But he chooses his words carefully before admitting there is no other way to describe his feelings over the part Owen Farrell has played in dragging England out of their post-World Cup stupor.
Flood should, by rights, have been England’s starting fly-half from the outset of the Six Nations, having excelled in last year’s tournament before suffering in silence during the World Cup as Martin Johnson reverted to Jonny Wilkinson and stuck with him even though he looked patently out of sorts.
When Wilkinson called time on his extraordinary international career after the tournament, the door was open for Flood to step out from his shadow and take long-term possession of England’s No 10 shirt.
But a knee ligament damaged when Flood faced Sale with Leicester in January allowed first Charlie Hodgson and then Farrell the chance to excel in the pivotal position as Stuart Lancaster’s brave new world began to unfold.
Flood, who has 47 caps, was forced to settle for a 20-minute cameo from
the bench as the Six Nations all but passed him by and, courtesy of three
brilliant displays at No 10, Farrell became a banker who could take
‘I can’t pretend it’s been ideal,’ Flood said from Leicester’s Oadby training base last week. ‘Having an injury like that at the start of the Six Nations means you are always chasing your tail. I enjoyed seeing the guys developing and being around them in training. But the other half of me was very jealous because you want to be a part of what was going on and this new era that everyone’s talking about.
‘I’m content and laid-back about most things in life but I’m annoyed and jealous about not being involved. They say you don’t know what
you’ve got until it’s gone. I’m not usually a jealous person, but having had the England No 10 shirt taken away from me there is a massive desire and hunger to get back involved.’
Spot on: Owen Farrell was imperious for England during the Six Nations
Flood’s frustration is
understandable. Fifteen months ago he scored a record 25 points as
England tore Australia to shreds at Twickenham before featuring
prominently in their Six Nations championship-winning side the following
He was criticised for his performance as England slipped to defeat in
Dublin on the final day of last year’s tournament, before irritating the coaching staff by choosing to run training-ground moves rather than kick at goal in the penultimate World Cup warm-up game, against Wales in Cardiff.
It cost England the match and cost Flood his starting place, but he had good reason to believe his time would come again this year.
But Farrell’s precocious displays, allied to Hodgson’s resurgence and
the emergence of Leicester’s George Ford, Bath’s Tom Heathcote and the
impending return of Danny Cipriani, mean England now have a fly-half
cupboard that is fresh and well stocked.
Flood remains in a strong position to tour South Africa as Farrell’s back-up this summer but accepts that he is now looking over his shoulder.
Pratice makes perfect: Flood (left) in action for Leicester Tigers
‘I’ve always been that young kid who
is chasing somebody,’ he said. ‘I’m no longer hunting, watching Jonny.
Now I have to watch myself. I have to set the standards.’
How he embraces that shift in mentality will define his future. The average age
of Lancaster’s Six Nations squad was 26 — the same age as Flood — and
with that youth first policy likely to continue whoever is given the head coach’s job, Flood knows he cannot afford to rest on his laurels.
‘The smartest thing that Stuart did was getting rid of a lot of the older players,’ he said. ‘He felt that if he wanted to make his mark he needed fresh blood and people who would respond to what he’s going to say. Now there’s an environment where guys will work for each other, they have grown up together, most of them are the same age and are from the same mould. Ninety per cent of them have been coached by Stuart before.
‘There was progress going on under Johnno and a feeling we were getting things right. But the fallout from World Cup, with all the leaks and resignations, created an environment in which Stuart could start from fresh. He has done that and it’s paying off.’
Lancaster spent an hour with Flood explaining his reasons for dropping
him in favour of Hodgson for the trip to Paris.
Main man: Farrell has won the confidence of coach Stuart Lancaster
‘Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and agree to disagree,’ said Flood.
‘Stu was good to me and told me I was still very much in his thoughts, which is great. He is building to the next World Cup but for me it’s about taking care of the here and now.’
The ‘here and now’ for Flood involves today’s Aviva Premiership encounter with London Irish at the Madejski Stadium when Leicester can further consolidate a top-four spot that looked improbable when they started the season by losing five of their first six league games.
‘You can’t let your own career worries affect how you are around the club,’ he said. ‘You have to keep driving what’s around you.
‘Now I’m the guy who is being chased. That’s a really new transition
for me and how I deal with that is the interesting thing. It’s always easier in a horse race being second with a furlong out because you have something to run at.
‘That scenario has changed for me. In some respects I’m now a couple
of noses back now. Now I’m in a situation where I have to drive myself.’