Martin Johnson confirmed he chose to drop fly-half Jonny Wilkinson for the RBS 6 Nations clash with France but maintains the 30-year-old's star is not on the wane.
Wilkinson’s relegation to the bench is only the third time the Toulon fly-half has been dropped in his international career with his role as England’s playmaker coming under increasing scrutiny over the course of the Championship.
With only five tries scored by England over the course of the Championship, and just two by the backs, Johnson is hoping Flood’s promotion will galvanise a backline including the exciting talents of Ben Foden and Chris Ashton.
But Johnson is adamant world record points scorer Wilkinson – who withdrew from the 15-15 draw with Scotland early in the second half with a knock – is not finished on the international stage and says competition for the No.10 shirt is vital heading into the 2011 World Cup.
He said: “Jonny took a number of heavy knocks against Scotland but we’re happy to pick Toby.
“We need two players in every position and Toby suffered something similar last week, after taking a blow to the head while playing for his club.
“If I thought Jonny was in decline, I wouldn’t have picked him for our last seven internationals.
“I’m sure he’ll be disappointed he’s not starting, but he’s a team player. The guys on the bench will be playing in the last quarter and that’s the most important part of the game.
“Going into an 18-month World Cup cycle you need at least two players in every position who can stand up and play Test matches.
“Toby’s form since he came back from injury has been very good with Leicester. He is an all-round, strong 10.
“We have seen him grow in two years as an on-field general, ball-player and as an organiser in attack. He is obviously not as experienced as Jonny but he has played in World Cup finals.
“He is graduating into that sort of leadership role in the team as he gets more experience.”