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Flood praises Wilkinson
ESPNscrum Staff
December 17, 2011
Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood consult during England training, Onewa Domain, Auckland, New Zealand, October 6, 2011
Toby Flood has vied with Jonny Wilkinson for the England fly-half berth in the past © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Toby Flood | Jonny Wilkinson
Teams: England

England fly-half Toby Flood has paid tribute to his former Falcons team-mate Jonny Wilkinson following the legend's international retirement.

Wilkinson called time on his Test career on Monday and Flood, who has vied with the 32-year-old for the England fly-half berth in recent times, believes the Toulon playmaker has inspired the next generation of international half-backs. And Flood claims England have an embarrassment of riches in the fly-half department ahead of the 2012 Six Nations.

"Johnny inspired a lot of people and he was instrumental in how others have played the game," Flood told the Leicester Mercury. "I will miss him as a bloke because I got on really well with him. I will also miss having a laugh with him. We hung out together a fair bit and that was good for both of us.

"When we played together at Newcastle, along with guys like Mat Tait, we ended up getting quite close. I was a teenager when he was lighting up the world. As someone who was getting into the sport, who wouldn't want to copy his work ethic and how he handles himself.

"Johnny could have led a celebrity lifestyle but he just got his head down and got on with his job. People were always trying to reach his levels of performance and commitment. There are some good young English players coming through now. George Ford has been good for us at Leicester while Owen Farrell has been interchanging between fly-half and inside centre for Saracens.

"Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb at Northampton and Rory Clegg at Harlequins have all been doing well. Guys like Fordy and Clegg have no doubt looked up to Johnny and aspired to be like him as they have been growing up."

And Flood believes he is far from a shoo-in for the England fly-half berth. "With Johnny retiring from the international scene, it just heightens my sense of responsibility and the need to improve," Flood said. "The pressure will now come from below and you have to keep the wolves from the door. Those players will certainly keep me on my toes."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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