I'm not ready to call time yet, insists Leicester Tigers and England fly-half Toby Flood
Leicester Tigers fly-half Toby Flood insists he still has plenty to offer Stuart Lancaster's England during the Six Nations – even if his younger rivals have him feeling old before his time.
Since Jonny Wilkinson hung up his international boots in 2011 following a disastrous World Cup in New Zealand, Flood had been the go-to man to fill the 2003 winner's sizeable boots – until now.
He has had to make-do with a place on the bench in recent Tests following the emergence 12 months ago of 21-year-old Owen Farrell, who made the most of Flood being out of international duty with a toe injury at the end of last year.
However, Flood is no stranger to having to fight for the England No.10 jersey, having constantly battled with the likes of Wilkinson, Charlie Hodgson and Danny Cipriani since making his debut in 2006.
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Despite admitting to a few extra grey hairs because of it, Flood insists the current situation is nothing new to him as he takes it all in his stride.
"We are in a great area with the team now, in that everyone is really open and honest with each other, and that comes down from the coaches," said Flood, who has the largest number of caps in the current England squad.
"You know where you stand and you know what you have to do to achieve what you want to achieve.
"I will keep pushing and working as hard as I can in training and, likewise, so will all the other guys not currently in the starting XV.
"What you have got here now is not a competition from peer to peer or player to player, but you have got a competition inside the squad that just wants England to be successful.
"So you have got 32, 33 guys who are trying to get better for the benefit of one another, not necessarily for the benefit of the individual.
"I have been through the wash a few times and I have had Jonny, Charlie and Cipriani, all those sorts of guys to compete with, and now I have Freddie (Burns) and Owen (Farrell) coming on the scene, so I am no stranger to it."
Also adding to Flood's premature aging has been Tigers team-mate George Ford.
The two have been competing for the No.10 jersey at Welford Road in recent seasons, so you think Flood would be pleased to see the back of Ford next season as the 19-year-old is rumoured to be heading to Bath.
But for Flood, that could not be further from the truth.
"The world is at that guy's feet," said Flood. "Whatever he wants to do and however he wants to play, he has the ability to go and do anything he wants.
"It is shame to see him go and I wish he was staying with the club."
Toby Flood is representing the England team for Marriott Hotels & Resorts, official partner of the RFU. Marriott Hotels & Resorts are giving away a two-night break in Europe every time England score a try in the RBS Six Nations. For more details, go to: