A theory for localized low-frequency ideal magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) modes in axisymmetric toroidal systems is generalized to take into account both toroidal and poloidal equilibrium plasma flows. The general set of equations describing the coupling of shear Alfvén and slow (sound) modes and defining the continuous spectrum of rotating plasmas in axisymmetric toroidal systems is derived. The equations are applied to study the continuous spectra in large aspect ratio tokamaks. The unstable continuous modes in the case of predominantly poloidal plasma rotation with the angular velocity exceeding the sound frequency are found. Their stabilization by the shear Alfvén coupling effect is studied. © 2011 American Institute of Physics.