Rugby World Cup 2011
England to change mindset
Toby Flood (Gallo Images)
Auckland - England were subconsciously hampered against Scotland by knowing they could lose and still qualify for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and will face France with a far more positive mindset from the start, flyhalf Toby Flood said on Tuesday.
The 2003 world champions had the luxury of knowing a narrow defeat would still have sent them into their preferred quarter-final but, after briefly trailing by a margin that would have knocked them out, they fought back with a late Chris Ashton try to win 16-12.
Despite the win, England's players and management recognise that they handed the initiative to the Scots and then were unable to extricate themselves from "an arm wrestle" to play the game on their own terms.
"It doesn't help if you go in with the mindset of 'we'll hang in until 70 minutes' which probably had an impact on us on Saturday," Flood told reporters at the team hotel.
"We were told all week that if we lost by eight we were out and I think that had an effect.
"What we must do against France is say 'for 20 minutes, this is massive'. Our starts have been poor. We can't go around saying our fitness is going to tell because we might not be in the game after 60 minutes.
"I think we've fallen into the trap, particularly against Italy (in the Six Nations), of thinking that if we're in the game at 60 minutes we'll blow them away. But that might not happen. We have to understand as a side that we blitz them from minute one.
"You don't have the body language that I think we had at the weekend of 'things aren't quite right.' We should never be like that, particularly not in a quarter-final."
Four years ago, England reached the quarter-finals with criticism ringing in their ears, particularly a 36-0 thrashing by South Africa, but roared out of the blocks in their Marseille quarter-final to overwhelm Australia with one of their most aggressive performances for years.
Flood said there was a similar feel to the 34-10 thrashing of France in the 2009 Six Nations.
"It comes from establishing momentum at the start of a game," he said.
"In that game (against France), suddenly things start working because two minutes ago something else worked. It's all about momentum and those first 20 minutes are hugely important."
Flood started that Twickenham match but, after going on to establish himself as Martin Johnson's first choice through the title-winning 2011 Six Nations campaign, has found himself back behind Jonny Wilkinson in the pecking order.
However, with Wilkinson struggling with his goalkicking, fighting to overcome a bruised arm and Flood coming off the bench to set up Ashton's try against the Scots, the younger man could be back in the frame to start against France at Eden Park on Saturday.
"I am not the management... all you can do is slip notes under the door during selection meetings," said Flood, who is good friends with Wilkinson, having developed his game under his wing as a youngster at Newcastle.
"It's just about getting on with what you have been given.
"You are grateful for any opportunity. It is not until you are involved in this, and I was lucky enough to be involved four years ago, that you appreciate it for what it is and how exciting the tournament is and how important this weekend is.
"Then your eyes light up and you're laughing about the fact we beat Australia and all these sorts of things.
"They are the special moments you remember and all you've wanted since you started playing rugby."