Rugby World Cup 2011: Wilkinson & Flood to decide kicker after practice

Rugby World Cup 2011: England v France

Venue:
Eden Park, Auckland
Date:
Saturday, 8 October
Kick-off:
0830 BST/ 2030 NZ
Coverage:
Live text commentary, scores and report on BBC website plus; updates on BBC Radio 5 live; watch live on ITV1

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Wilkinson excited by Flood pairing

Jonny Wilkinson insists he would have no problem handing over the kicking duties to Toby Flood against France.

The duo will practise behind closed doors on Friday at Eden Park, the venue for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final.

Flood has landed 10 of his 13 kicks at the tournament, while Wilkinson has managed only nine from 20.

"Toby and I will both be preparing as hard as we can and we'll probably make that decision after we've been to the stadium," said Wilkinson.

"It's safe to say Toby has knocked some great kicks over already, he's looking good and he's in fine form. We'll see how he's preparing and I'm preparing.

"I'm always confident. I'm never afraid to take them. There have been two kicks in this tournament I wouldn't mind taking back but the rest I've been happy with. It's important that whatever decision we make is for the team."

Wilkinson told BBC Sport he has "never practised as well and as hard" and believes he will see the benefits on Saturday if he retains the kicking duties.

Certainly manager Martin Johnson hinted as much when he said: "You go into a game like this and I don't think you'd want to be playing against Jonny Wilkinson.

"Jonny has had a lot of kicks from a long way out and he's never flinched from having a shot."

Wilkinson, who scored all 24 points in England's 2003 semi-final win over the French, and nine vital points at the same stage four years ago, is "excited" at the prospect of starting a Test with Flood for the first time since February 2010 against Wales.

"He knows what he wants, bosses people around, controls the game and to have someone on the field like that to work alongside is a great thing," Wilkinson continued.

"It will not be the first time I've played alongside Toby. I know him well, have great faith in what he can do and trust him as a guy that can bring each match to the team."

Wilkinson, who plays his club rugby for French side Toulon, is similarly unconcerned by the focus on his kicking and says Flood's inclusion will not increase the pressure on him.

"There's pressure on everyone to get things right, lead by example and take it upon yourself to do what's right and live with the consequences," he stated.

"The guys are ready to do that. Everyone will spread that pressure."

England's World Cup has been tainted by a number of well-publicised off-field antics, while the French have had problems of their own to deal with, namely infighting and the 19-14 defeat by Tonga in their final pool game.

However, Nick Easter, who has been named as England's number eight in place of James Haskell, warned: "The French have an outstanding game at every World Cup. At the first one it was in the semi-final when [Serge] Blanco scored a last-minute try.

"They are probably more dangerous when they are in that position but we know what we are up against."

England scrum coach Graham Rowntree is also wary of the threat posed by Les Bleus, adding: "A [French] performance would bring everything together and almost wipe the slate clean for the whole tournament [for them].

"They're not going to lose like that again [19-14 to Tonga]; beating us in the quarters will make everything all right for them."

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