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Lancaster: I fought to stop Flood's move to France

STUARD LANCASTER fought to convince Toby Flood not to move to France at the end of the season, the England head coach has confirmed.

Lancaster has omitted Leicester fly-half Flood from his Elite Player Squad, spelling the end of the 60-cap playmaker's international career.

Only "exceptional circumstances" allow the England boss to select overseas-based players, but those have never been called in to action.

Flood (inset) will join French Top 14 side Toulouse in the summer, ending five years with Leicester and surrendering the Tigers' club captaincy.

Lancaster promoted Bath's 20-year-old fly-half George Ford in Flood's place, temporarily adding Northampton's Stephen Myler to his Six Nations squad too.

Lancaster has backed both new playmakers to capitalise on the opportunities.

"I'm disappointed that Toby's chosen to play in France next season," Lancaster said.

"I tried to encourage him to stay at Leicester, but it's a great opportunity for George to come in. Toby's been great for us and I respect him and his decision.

"I've got a great relationship with him, but he understands our policy.

"I would rather make the decision now at this point 20 months out from a World Cup to give someone like George Ford or Stephen Myler the chance to show what they can do now."

Lancaster said Ford's composure in Saturday's 27-27 draw at Leicester cemented the youngster's elevation.

Ford has progressed confidently through every England age group, and Lancaster admitted he had been earmarked for full squad elevation for some time.

The England boss said: "The tipping point was George's maturity in that game, I thought that was excellent," said Lancaster.

Northampton fly-half Myler will train with the full England squad, and Lancaster said he has a chance to muscle into the senior set-up.