England's double trouble
You might think someone who has scored more points in Test matches than anyone else in history and was responsible for the winning kick in a World Cup final can afford to be generous. But even Toby Flood appeared slightly awkward as praise was heaped upon him by the man he replaced as England's first-choice number 10.
"Look at it results-wise and flow-wise in the England team," said Jonny Wilkinson. "The relationship Floody has created between him and the others, the way they work and the way they link, it's something that wasn't quite there when I was playing."
At which point Flood felt the need to step in, perhaps a touch embarrassed to see his former mentor doing himself down in this way. "That relationship evolved because of a change of direction in the team, it certainly wasn't down to any individuals," said Flood.
"For me, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. The team has changed, in terms of its perception, in terms of the way it thinks and behaves on the field, because of the way we are off it as a unit."
When Flood talks of being in the right place at the right time, he is referring to last year's 15-15 Six Nations stalemate at Murrayfield, what is now considered to be a watershed moment in the reign of England manager Martin Johnson. It wasn't so much the result, more the dismal nature of the game that forced Johnson's hand.
Against France in the final game of the championship, Flood started at fly-half and Wilkinson was dropped to the bench. In addition, Ben Foden replaced the malfunctioning Delon Armitage at full-back and the irrepressible Chris Ashton took over from Ugo Monye on the wing. England could not prevent the French from sealing a Grand Slam but they came mighty close, suggesting the team had taken a big step in the right direction.
On England's summer tour to Australia, more tweaks were made, with live-wire scrum-half Ben Youngs and athletic lock Courtney Lawes exemplifying Johnson's new-look side. And as Flood intimated at Wednesday's news conference - and others have admitted previously - the squad also benefited greatly from a less stringent off-field regime, as well as consistency of selection.
One year on from that bore-fest in Edinburgh, England will play Scotland at Twickenham on Sunday knowing victory will leave them one win away from their first Grand Slam since 2003. Wilkinson will again start on the bench - not that he seems to mind. The once tortured superstar of English rugby is getting philosophical, as well as loquacious, in his (relative) old age.
"This time last year, I'd started going in a direction I didn't want to go in and certainly wasn't enjoying," admitted Wilkinson, still only 31. "Sometimes you've got to fight for what you want to achieve but other times that fighting becomes almost stupid.
"The signs were I needed a break to reassess and see things from a different angle. [Being dropped] gave me the opportunity to do that: 'How do I look at rugby from this point of view? What more can it bring out of me?' When I look back at that time, at me now compared to then, those things arrived when I needed them.
"You can want all the things in the world but it's no fun unless you don't deserve it or earn it. Floody came in and played exceptionally well - he earned it - and I'm enjoying the process of getting back on that route. It was unfair for me to play that entire Six Nations the way Floody was playing. He finished it off and showed what he can do."
While Flood is currently England's main man at 10, to hear Wilkinson talk of him in such terms must be humbling. Old team-mates at Newcastle, Flood broke into the Falcons side when Wilkinson was already arguably the premier fly-half in world rugby. Flood paid attention to the master and what Wilkinson calls a "synergistic relationship" developed.
"He was peerless at the time, different to anything else that was going on," said Flood, six years Wilkinson's junior. "It was the work ethic that stood out. It made me realise what he was prepared to go through to achieve what he wanted to do. It was a huge help playing with Jonny. It still is to this day. Hopefully we give a huge amount to the England team and to each other."
England's midfield remains an area for debate. There are those who believe Flood and Wilkinson would be the ideal pairing at stand-off and inside-centre respectively. Intriguingly, it is an idea neither man dismissed out of hand.
"We played a lot of rugby together at Newcastle - and the way Newcastle played meant whatever number you had on your back, it very quickly became irrelevant," said Wilkinson, now in France with Toulon. "We pushed ourselves hard to make sure we had every skill that was needed."
Added Flood, now of Leicester: "There's no reason why it couldn't be Jonny and Shontayne Hape starting, with me on the bench, or Jonny and I starting, with Shontayne on the bench - whatever combination best allows us to attack the opposition."
But if Johnson does decide to stick with Hape and Mike Tindall in the centres, as is likely, Wilkinson will continue to enjoy the view from the sidelines.
"I've been privileged to see [Flood's progress] from day one," said Wilkinson. "I'm desperate to see the best of what he can do, for his own sake and for England's sake. It's also telling me I need to raise my own game. Far from animosity, it's a case of getting the best out of each other."
It was around this time the RFU's media man stepped in and indicated that Flood and Wilkinson were 15 minutes late for training. I can report that England's synergistic duo didn't exactly step to it. Indeed, their indifference spoke volumes: "What's Johnno gonna do about it, drop us?"