Rugby World Cup
Flood: We didn't deserve to progress
October 10, 2011
Toby Flood reflects on defeat to France © Getty Images
An emotional Toby Flood conceded England deserved to be dumped out of the Rugby World Cup.
The Leicester fly-half pulled no punches as he reflected on England's early exit after a dismal 19-12 quarter-final defeat to France. England paid the price for a calamitous first half as Les Bleus surged into a match-winning 16-0 lead, which was enough to book a semi-final showdown with Wales.
In stark contrast, Flood and his team-mates have started to return home, where their clubs are preparing for a fortnight of LV= Cup action.
"It's just shocking that we are going home but we don't deserve to be here because ultimately we didn't stand up to be accountable," said Flood. "We can't hide behind a facade - we are incredibly frustrated and disappointed.
"It's important we realise that, in these games, we have to engage our brains and engage our bodies. No-one will know how much it hurts to lose in a quarter-final and not be here for the rest of the tournament until you feel that pain, until you feel that overriding feeling of disappointment.
"Guys are going to feel that now, it's going to hurt, the screw is going to be turned pretty harshly. We feel like we've not only let ourselves down but our travelling supporters too and the fans back home too. We can't hide away from that.
"Sure, we are professional players and we take our losses and deal with them, but this is something very different because when you lose these games it stays with you for longer."
England arrived in New Zealand as Six Nations champions and on the back of a confidence-boosting win over Ireland in their final warm-up encounter. Flood had also been at fly-half for England's back-to-back victories over Australia and he stated before the tournament that a semi-final appearance was the minimum requirement.
"The most difficult thing is that we worked so hard in pre-season with the golden chalice of a World Cup to aim for," Flood continued. "Guys were literally throwing up on the field, working that hard to achieve something, so for it all to be washed away in 80 minutes - I hope that really drives us on as a team.
"We have fallen short - we haven't even made the last two weeks of the tournament. You come here aiming to win it. When we saw the draw we thought: `Yes, we've beaten France this year and yes, we've beaten Wales this year' so there was a chance for us.
"And we have fallen short because we haven't achieved the goals we set out to achieve. It's difficult to put into words how hard you've worked and how disappointing it is not to achieve your goals. World Cups only come round every four years. They are something very special. "To be involved in the final last time was a great occasion which meant so much to a lot of people."
The Rugby Football Union will now consider whether Martin Johnson is the right man to lead England into the 2015 World Cup on home soil. Johnson cut a dejected figure today and it was of scant consolation but he does believe the best days are still ahead for this young England team.
Flood could have nearly 100 caps if he remains fit between now and the 2015 World Cup on home soil, while the likes of Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi are just beginning their international careers.
"I believe this team's best days are ahead of it," Johnson said. "They'll be better for the experience."
Flood will come to agree with his manager in time but the disappointment was still too raw to look that far ahead. World Cups are not rehearsals. Asked whether the experience would be helpful in 2015, Flood said: "Maybe so, but to be honest I couldn't give a damn.
"Some of the guys won't be around next time. You have to seize the moment, seize the opportunity. You look back and hear the boys talking in the changing room about ifs and buts and maybes. But it has gone - that is why rugby is so difficult and hard. I feel that, yes we gave our all, but were we doing the right things?"
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