Toby Flood is backing England for Rugby World Cup glory on Saturday, the same day his Newcastle Falcons side hosts Jersey Reds at Kingston Park Stadium.
Flood was part of the England side which fell to South Africa in the 2007 final, but the 60-cap fly-half believes the class of 2019 have what it takes to bring home the Webb Ellis Cup.
The 9am kick-off from Yokohama forms the perfect start to a day which sees the Falcons kicking off at 1pm, Flood saying: “I guess most of the Newcastle boys will be up watching it, although obviously being mindful that we have our own game to think about two hours later.
“Some guys might prefer to sleep in on a match day so I guess those guys will miss out, but I can imagine most people will be at home in front of the TV before heading over to Kingston Park for our own match.”
Buzzing about the prospect of an English victory, the Northumbrian said: “It’s just an exciting time for rugby, especially on the back of that semi-final performance against New Zealand.
“I honestly think we’ll win it. There’s a huge amount of hope around English rugby as a result of what the guys have done out there and I’m backing us to bring it home.”
Having tasted Rugby World Cup final agony following England’s narrow defeat in Paris 12 years ago, the Falcons star said: “I just remember being sat on that pitch after the final whistle and saying to Mathew Tait that we need to get back here again to go one better.
“It didn’t quite work out for me because in 2011 we fell at the quarter-final stage despite having what we believed to be a good route to the final, but we didn’t do it on the day. That’s something that never really leaves you and you just carry it round with you, but I think this current squad will go one better.
“It’s basically the reverse of when I played in the 2007 final, in that we’re the favourites in many people’s eyes. We were underdogs back then and I think most observers just thought we’d done well to get to the final, but I feel like it’s England’s to lose now.
“We seem to be able to find a way to win, whatever that way is, and we have the quality of players to implement a number of different game plans. The key guys seem to be playing really well at just the right time, you can see the confidence in the camp and I’m backing us to bring it all together when it matters.”
Flanker Mark Wilson is representing the Falcons in Japan prior to his season-long loan move to Sale Sharks, Flood speaking of his delight at the Cumbrian’s involvement.
“It’s great to have Mark over there showcasing the club, and he really deserves it,” he said.
“He’s a really humble bloke who has had to battle for everything throughout his career, he fought hard to become an England mainstay throughout the autumn and the Six Nations, and even when a bit of a niggle saw him missing out on the World Cup warm-ups he has hung in there and got on with it to fight his way back.
“Like everyone else I was jumping up and screaming when he came on from the bench and won that turnover last week against New Zealand, and if he does get another opportunity on Saturday I’ve got 100% confidence he will take it.
“Obviously he’s going out on loan to Sale Sharks when he gets home, but we could be welcoming home a Rugby World Cup winner when he comes back to us for the 2020-21 season.”
Saturday’s final serves as a warm-up for the Falcons on Saturday as they aim to extend their six-game unbeaten run, sitting at the top of the Greene King IPA Championship as they welcome Jersey Reds to Kingston Park.
“There’s still a lot more to come from us,” said Flood, who kicked two penalties and a conversion in last Sunday’s 18-9 away win over Cornish Pirates, a match which saw a round trip of almost 1,000 miles to Penzance and back.
“We’ve spoken about it after the last few games, and even though we’ve had some good results we feel like we’ve left two or three tries out there in pretty much all of the games we’ve played.
“The frustration is because it feels like we’re really close to putting our game together, but we’re just not quite making that final step. It will come, and we’re certainly putting in the work in training to make it happen.”
Winning 21-8 against Jersey on the opening day of the season in Championship Cup action, Flood added: “Jersey were a good team when we played them over there, and they were very physical. They were really combative, they battled for every single minute of that game and made life very difficult for us.
“They’re a good solid outfit who have operated at this level for a while now, and they know what they’re about. They had an excellent result at home to Doncaster last weekend, they nilled them and scored a bonus point and they’ve been right amongst it over the past few years.
“They have a good pack, some strong inside backs and some dangerous guys on the edge who can finish things off.”
Supporters with a valid Falcons v Jersey match ticket can watch the Rugby World Cup final at Kingston Park’s West Stand concourse bar, which is open from 8am ahead of the 9am kick-off and is offering a full bar service. A packed day of rugby concludes when a Falcons XV takes on Scottish Super6 side Stirling County at 4.30pm.
Falcons v Jersey match tickets are available by clicking here, calling 0871 226 6060 or from Kingston Park Stadium in person.