Flood relishing Wilkinson face-off
April 3, 2013
Toby Flood stands alongside Jonny Wilkinson while on Newcastle duty © PA Photos
Toby Flood is relishing the chance to come up against his former Newcastle Falcons and England team-mate Jonny Wilkinson for the first time this weekend when Leicester travel to Toulon in the Heineken Cup.
Half-backs Flood and Wilkinson both started their professional rugby careers with Newcastle and this rivalry transferred onto the Test stage. At times Flood or Wilkinson were moved to inside centre to accommodate the other at fly-half but they are likely to come face-to-face this weekend in the quarter-final.
Flood has never played against Wilkinson and he is adamant that his team will have to be at their best if they are to halt the march of the Top 14 big-spenders.
"Toulon control territory very well and will aim to build momentum, and Jonny will orchestrate that," Flood told the Daily Mail. "He will want to play quick, on top of us. Any time their momentum stalls, he will just take two or three steps back, drop it on to his right or left foot and bang it through the posts."
Wilkinson looks set to prolong his stay at Toulon by a further year and despite him entering the twilight of his career, Flood insists the No.10 is as good as ever. "He looks just as sharp as he was in the past and just as hungry. He's hitting more breakdowns in a game than most 10s do in a week! As he said when he spoke about wanting to continue, it is all about whether he can still give something to the side.
"He's always been like that, thinking about what he can give, not what he can gain. He is definitely giving something to that Toulon side, and that is what matters to him."
The match will also give fullback Mathew Tait a chance to prove to the Leicester backroom staff that he is deserving of a new contract. Tait joined the Tigers ahead of the 2011-12 season but had an injury-ravaged first season. But he has played 18 times this term and he is keen to stay beyond this summer when his contract expires.
"I had few injury problems until I was 24," Tait told the Guardian. "I dislocated my shoulder while at Sale and I had only just started at Leicester when my groin went. That is sport but I have put a run of games together and long may it continue. My contract is up at the end of the season and the fact I was out for so long may be a reason why my future has not been sorted out yet but I am hoping that something starts soon.
"I like it at Leicester and want to stay here. The season is reaching a key point in the Premiership and in Europe and, if I remain in the team and help contribute towards success, we will see what happens then. One of the reasons I joined Leicester was that they are a consistently successful club and it does not get much better than playing in Toulon."
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