Rugby World Cup 2011
Flood calls for united England
ESPNscrum Staff
October 4, 2011
Toby Flood has a superior kicking record to rival Jonny Wilkinson so far this World Cup

Toby Flood has urged his England team-mates to start taking responsibility for their actions off the field and pull together on it to strengthen their bid for World Cup glory.

The Leicester fly-half was joined by Shontayne Hape in providing an insight into the disappointment some England players feel about the recent headline-grabbing controversies. Mark Cueto on Monday launched a vehement defence of England's conduct and blamed the media for making a "mountain out of a molehill".

Flood sees the issue from a broader perspective. He believes the first responsibility lies on the shoulders of each player and Hape admitted to the BBC that "a couple of the guys have let the squad down".

But in an address worthy of a potential captain, Flood demanded England put all the distractions behind them and present a united front for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final clash with France.

"I think Mark's point is valid to a degree in terms of there's been a lot been written about it. However you're in a World Cup," Flood said. "There's a lot more fuss, a lot more that goes on with it.

"You stand by what you do as a person. You have to be accountable for what happens in life. By no means does that make somebody an idiot because as a squad there's a camaraderie there. You surround them and you're behind them. That's what we have to do as a squad.

"We understand things have happened, things that were not really what we wanted to do over here. However we deal with it as a squad, we unite behind it. We understand that sometimes when somebody is suffering it's an important time to rally around them and deal with it - and that's what we have to do at the moment.

"It's rumbled on but so what? We have to deal with it and understand that we've got to unite now...for the greater good. This is our goal. It's time for us to go: 'Look we are where we are now, this is important and this goes beyond anything else. As a squad we have to deal with it and unite'."

In some ways England's recent issues pale in comparison to those France are going through, with the squad seemingly in disarray following their Pool A defeat to Tonga. The French players are understood to have held a summit meeting on Tuesday in a bid to bring a sense of unity to the squad ahead of their showdown with England.

"We know they are in a situation now when it looks like they are in disarray - but I have been in teams that looked in disarray and it's a very dangerous thing," said Flood. "It can be very powerful tool."

England beat France en route to their Six Nations title and they have prevailed in the semi-finals at each of the last two World Cups. Johnson will not name his side until the early hours of Thursday morning.

Flood is unlikely to start unless Jonny Wilkinson fails to recover from an elbow problem he suffered in England's decisive Pool B victory over Scotland. There has been a clamour in some quarters for Flood to start after he came on last weekend and created the match-winning try for Chris Ashton.

Wilkinson trained lightly on Tuesday after suffering an arm injury against Scotland but Mike Tindall took no part in the session as he continued to recover from a dead leg.

"I think he (Wilkinson) is going to be fine," said Flood. "I think he is in a strong position. The scan has come back well and he is happy."

Flood accepts that Wilkinson's big match history will often earn him the nod, even though his kicking return is just 9/20 this tournament.

"That will definitely be something in his favour (in selection), something that's weighted towards him because he does have a history of doing it," he said.

The only potential England change comes on the wing with Mark Cueto to replace the suspended Delon Armitage and Flood is priming himself for a ferocious French onslaught.

"What we must do against France is say 'for 20 minutes, this is massive.' Our starts have been poor but if we get it right here then hopefully we'll remove any resistance we're going to have," said Flood. "We have to understand as a side that we blitz them from minute one."

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