Johnson turns to Flood at fly-half
February 25, 2009
Toby Flood takes over from Andy Goode at fly-half for the trip to Ireland © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson has selected Leicester's Toby Flood at fly-half for their Six Nations showdown with Ireland at Croke Park on Saturday. Flood replaces Brive's Andy Goode, who drops to the bench.
Flood is the seventh player to wear the England No.10 jersey in just 10 games and will be charged with negating the threat of Ireland's dangerous backs division.
Elsewhere the side is that same as that which turned in an improved performance in defeat against Wales, with Wasps' Joe Worsley retaining the openside berth and his club-mates James Haskell and Riki Flutey, both bound for France at the end of the season, retaining their places at blindside and centre respectively.
The only change to the 22 comes on the bench where London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson makes way for Danny Care, who has recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of England's opening two games.
Johnson backed Flood to step up and claim the fly-half jersey for his own, ending the revolving door that has seen England fail to string together consistent performances.
"You want players to nail down the position. We need a core of players who when we pick the side are consistent in international rugby," said Johnson. "There are a few positions which have been chopped and changed for various reasons and this is Toby's opportunity to take hold of it with a good performance.
"Toby's kicking game has been very good when he has come on, his defence has improved as has his grasp of what we are trying to do in attack and his distribution has been good. "We have seen a bit more composure from him this season. This is a chance for Toby to come in and get a start. I thought he did well when he started there against the All Blacks (in November) and this is an opportunity to nail down the position."
Johnson believes that the game in Ireland will be a close one, and that his side must keep to their tactical plan if they are to prevail.
"If you play well and execute your game-plan, you will win the game," said Johnson. "The first 20 minutes is important. We had a bad start to both halves in Cardiff and we need to turn that around. If we went 9-0 up instead of 9-0 down it would be a happier place to be. Ireland are not one dimensional but they are very happy to take the physical challenge to you. We have be strong to stop them building any momentum there without giving away penalties."
Flood was in the squad last time England took on Ireland at Croke Park, and remembers the occasion fondly despite their 43-13 hammering.
"I didn't get on which was a blessing the way it went, although it was a fantastic game to be involved in," he said. "It was my favourite Six Nations game because of what it was. Never mind the result, just the occasion. But we must win this time. We can't be drawn into the whole atmosphere and the occasion."
Flood's place kicking has come under scrutiny since his missed penalty allowed Wales breathing space in the final stages two weeks ago, but he maintains that he is ready to step up and go to-to-toe with Ireland's Ronan O'Gara.
"It's the time you want to be to putting your hand up and making a mark. To cement a position in the squad in which there is a huge amount of competition," he said. "It is difficult when you miss kicks and I was obviously annoyed by it. It was frustrating but you have got to get over it quickly.
"O'Gara is a fantastic player. We know what to expect. We're going to be up against a good kicking game from someone who manages the game very well. His game management is up there with the best in the world."
England: D Armitage (London Irish); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tindall (Gloucester), R Flutey (Wasps), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester), H Ellis (Leicester); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath), P Vickery (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), N Kennedy (London Irish), J Haskell (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton), J White (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), L Narraway (Gloucester), D Care (Harlequins), A Goode (Brive), M Tait (Sale Sharks).
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September