Flood and Wilko in penalty shoot-out
October 6, 2011
Toby Flood has a significantly superior kicking ratio than Jonny Wilkinson in this World Cup © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood will hold a penalty shoot-out behind closed doors at Eden Park on Friday to decide who will kick for England in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France.
Wilkinson is only six points short of Dan Carter's world record total of 1250 but he has missed 11 of his 20 shots at goal during the World Cup, the worst record in the tournament. Flood, by contrast, has landed 10 from 13, including some difficult touchline effort, but it would be a significant surprise if Wilkinson was to hand over the kicking responsibilities.
It was, after all, Wilkinson's boot that ultimately accounted for France in the semi-finals of both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
"Going into a game like this, I don't think you'd want to be playing against Jonny Wilkinson," said England manager Martin Johnson.
Nevertheless, Wilkinson's success rate has dropped from 81% to a mere mortal 70% since he spent three years out with injury.
France have enjoyed the best success rate from in front of the sticks at the World Cup, with Morgan Parra and Dimitri Yachvili landing 22 from 26 between them. England's is a lowly 58% and Wilkinson insisted he would have no problem handing over the kicking duties if it was for the good of the team.
"Toby and I will both be preparing as hard as we can and we'll probably make that decision after we've been to the stadium," said Wilkinson. "It's safe to say Toby has knocked some great kicks over already, he's looking good and he's in fine form. We'll see how he's preparing and I'm preparing.
"I'm always confident. I'm never afraid to take them. There have been two kicks in this tournament I wouldn't mind taking back but the rest I've been happy with. It's important that whatever decision we make is for the team."
Johnson suggested captain Lewis Moody would have to rein Wilkinson in and stop him automatically taking penalty shots at goal.
"That's something we need to manage," said Johnson.
England's victory over Scotland was secured when Flood came on, kicked for the corner and Chris Ashton scored out wide following the lineout.
"Having Toby there is hugely reassuring, less in terms of having a (goal-kicking) safety net than knowing there is always going to be someone there making decisions," said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson and Flood are starting a Test alongside each other for only the second time in 20 months after Johnson had scrapped the idea of using a second playmaker. They know each well from playing together at Newcastle - and their relationship dates back even further, to a coaching session Wilkinson ran at King's College, Tynemouth.
"Floody was in the lower sixth," said Wilkinson. "We did some kicking together and I was helping coach their team. I recognised immediately that he was the team's go to guy, and a good one at that.
"He is enormously comfortable with the ball in his hands, just moving off both feet, passing off both hands, he's aggressive. I watched him come through Newcastle and it's just great to see the guy getting better and better."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery