Former England fly-half Toby Flood talks Toulouse, Top 14 and the future

It’s all change for Toulouse this season, their first without Guy Noves at the helm in more than 20 years. But new coach Ugo Mola has guided the club to three wins from their first three Top 14 matches and no one seems to be enjoying the fresh regime as much as Toby Flood. The former England and Leicester star has twice been selected in Midi Olympique’s Team of the Week and is the standout performer from the Top 14’s opening month.

Do you feel more attuned to Toulouse’s style this season?

Yes. We’re doing much more video (analysis) and talking about things in front of each other and so that pick-up of information is much quicker than it probably was last year. I’m really enjoying it.

How hard was it make the transition from English rugby to French rugby?

From a guy who came from quite a structured background at Leicester I struggled with the fluidity of knowing where people were going to be at first, so that took me about four or five months to get my head around.

How are Ugo Mola’s methods different to Guy Noves?

Guy was old school and there was a time when we didn’t do any video analysis for about nine weeks on us or the opposition or anything, and so for a guy who had just come in it was hard to get a grasp. Because if you sit in the video room and watch (the match replay) for an hour and a half you hear different conversations from different players about their perspective on the game. So we were never all singing off the same hymn sheet, we were always thinking slightly differently to each other.

Guy used to give us the planning every Monday because he wanted to keep us on our toes; Ugo gives us the planning two or three weeks in advance so we know what we have planned that week and we can plan our lives around that. Having that consistency of planning for me… makes it a bit easier.

Ugo Mola Fabien Pelous

Double act: Ugo Mola and Fabien Pelous are now in charge at Toulouse. Photo: Getty Images

Fabien Pelous was appointed Toulouse’s sporting director in the summer. What does he bring to the club?

Fabien is a great guy, very genuine and I enjoy his company. Though as the director he runs things from afar, he’s very visible. We see him sometimes at training, he comes to the changing room after matches and he also does a lot of work with the club’s commercial partners. I also think it’s nice for Ugo to have such a stalwart as Fabien at the club so he can perhaps have a chat with him if he needs to and Fabien acts as a bridge between Ugo and the president.

How have you found Toulouse culturally?

When my wife and I came over we made the decision not be be ‘Brits Abroad’, speaking just English, but to make the most of being in France. The first four or five months were pretty tough but now we can flit between the English scene and the French scene. Toulouse is a real cultural melting pot and it’s really good fun to go out and about and meet people.

If you had to choose between winning the Top 14 and the Champions Cup, which would it be?

I was asked that when I first arrived I think I answered wrong – I said the Champions Cup! The Top 14 is the big thing around here and so knowing now the importance of it I’d probably edge towards that. It would be great to have a crack at the Top 14 and then I could say I’d won the league in England and France.

Nick Abendanon

Leap of faith: Clermont full-back Nick Abendanon takes a high ball. Photo: Getty Images

Who do you want to win more Midi Olympique stars than this season – David Strettle or Nick Abendanon?

I have to say Strets. I can’t compete with Nick – he’s the golden boy of French rugby and he’s bound to have about 24 by the end of the season!

You’ve been a pro for more than a decade. How will you handle retirement?

I look at it with open eyes. I’m aware that’s it coming and I’ve started to work towards it… that doesn’t mean you gear up for it mentally yet because you’re still focused on playing but you gear up in terms of using your spare time as best you can. I’m doing a little bit of coaching to see if it will be for me, one-on-one stuff, and also doing some financial exams. I’ve got to get through six books of 350 pages for my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Level One.

Who will win the World Cup?

I think any country out of five are in with a good chance. New Zealand are favourites but whoever comes out of England’s pool on top will be in with a good chance.

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