Flood paired with Wilkinson for French battle

Toby Flood. Photo by David Davies/PA Wire.
Toby Flood. Photo by David Davies/PA Wire.

FORMER Alnwick and Morpeth player Toby Flood will start for England in their quarter-final clash with France at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

But the ex-Morpeth Chantry pupil will be wearing the number 12 jersey playing outside Jonny Wilkinson who retains his place at fly-half.

After Saturday’s last-gasp victory over Scotland, Wilkinson was criticised for his performance, which included three missed penalties and a drop-goal, and an injury put his place in doubt for this weekend in Auckland.

Particularly after Flood’s ten minutes on the pitch saw the only try of the Scotland game thanks to his looping pass out to Chris Ashton, which stole the match from the Scots at the death.

However the Leicester Tiger is taking Mike Tindall’s place after the veteran centre failed to recover from a dead leg that forced him off in England’s final pool game.

Wilkinson was the scourge of the French in the semi-finals of the World Cup in both 2003 and 2007 with his metronomic kicking and a France side in apparent disarray will not be pleased to see his name on the teamsheet.

And Flood has played alongside Wilkinson for England 15 times before.

On the BBC Sport website, coach Martin Johnson said that the pairing offered England a different option.

“It’s not a gamble. It’s an exciting combination for us. It gives us Toby’s kicking game, Toby’s passing game. He’s a pretty experienced Test player now, 40 plus caps. He’s been playing well.

“It does give us some different things that we can do on the field when we play those guys (Flood and Wilkinson).”

Flood played the second-half against Romania the week before in Dunedin scoring eight points with the boot in a comfortable 67-3 England win.

He also scored 11 points the previous week as England beat Georgia 41-10 in his only start of the tournament.

England v France, from Eden Park, Auckland, kicks off at 8.30am this Saturday.