Ford brings England's future into focus Posted over 9 years ago

Photo: Sky Sports

Ford brings England’s future into focus

The gloom surrounding England’s end of year campaign was lifted by a much needed victory over Samoa on Saturday and more precisely the ray of light offered by George Ford.

Starved of game time since graduating to the senior England set-up and the opportunity to prove that he is a rival for the England No.10 shirt rather than just a back-up to Owen Farrell, Ford made the most of his first Test start with a classy and composed display.

In doing so he not only helped bring a five-game losing run to an end but also offered compelling evidence that he should retain the role when Australia visit Twickenham next weekend.

Lancaster’s decision to belatedly hand 21-year-old Ford the England reins and shift Owen Farrell to inside centre soon paid dividends with an understanding honed through the junior ranks laying the foundation for a superb opening score.

A simple loop around enticed a tackle-hungry Samoa defence sufficiently to allow Ford to ghost into some space where he drew one of many tackle he soaked up during the game. He then found fullback Mike Brown who popped the ball up to winger Jonny May whose electric pace carried him all the way to the line.

Unfortunately for Farrell, he was unable to use that as a stepping stone to a performance that would silence his critics and as a result England’s midfield remains a work in progress.

It would get even better for Ford and England shortly after the break. A superbly-executed cross kick found Anthony Watson – who also impressed on only his second England start – and the winger fed Brown for a try.

But it is arguably England’s final try that will bring the broadest smile to coach Stuart Lancaster’s face.

England’s near-perfect lineout – the hosts lost just one of 18 on their own throw and also stole four from Samoa – secured the ball before the forwards powered towards the Samoa line.

Denied by a committed Samoa defence, the ball was recycled at speed and some quick hands gave May time and space to cross for his second try.

Despite May’s try-scoring heroics, this was Ford’s day although Samoa did their best to ruin it.

Predictably fired up after a turbulent week off the pitch, Samoa went after the comparatively slight Ford, and some of his team-mates, but he reminded us he has the steel to complement the abundance of skill he can call on.

Anyone in any doubt as to his physical – and mental – strength need look no further than huge hit that he weathered from Samoa’s Johnny Leota midway through the second half.

The Samoan centre’s challenge was ruled as dangerous, perhaps a little harshly, and earned him a yellow card although you would be hard pressed to gauge that from Ford’s reaction as the England playmaker bounced back to his feet and immediately looked to get his side moving again.

He may still “be learning his trade” according to assistant coach Mike Catt but on current form he is the nearest thing that England have to a world-class fly-half and must be given the game time to further fuel his development.

As welcome and noteworthy Ford’s performance, England’s latest showing was also eye-catching for the wrong reasons.

Errors blighted much of their play and once again they were guilty of playing in the wrong areas and conceding turnovers in promising field positions.

The rain and fatigue may have played their part but there remains clear cause for concern when it comes to their basic skills – or lack of them – under pressure.

A lack of a clinical edge has cost England dear already this month and on this occasion they were just lucky that Samoa did not possess the firepower to make them pay for similar shortcomings having enjoyed plenty of possession and territory.

With Samoa’s defence stretched inside their own 22, Brown failed to hold onto a pass from Ford – albeit a fizzing one – and the chance was gone. But he was not the only culprit with both replacement winger Marland Yarde and lock Dave Attwood also among those set to dread reviewing certain elements of this game.

With an open field and support runners alongside, Yarde failed to find his man which will not have done his cause any good while Attwood failed to capitalise on more good build-up work from Ford late in the game when coughing up the ball within reach of Samoa’s line.

Thankfully for them, Ford will steal the headlines having, in the words of Lancaster, “put down a real marker”.

The Rugby site is the only online coaching resource to offer a truly global perspective, subscribe for 12 months – now at a lower price point.

Enter your email address to continue reading

We frequently post interesting articles and comment from our world class content providers so please provide us with your email address and we will notify you when new articles are available.

We'll also get in touch with various news and updates that we think will interest you. We promise to not spam, sell, or otherwise abuse your address (you can unsubscribe at any time).

See all News & Opinions videos


comments powered by Disqus

Graham Jenkins is a freelance sports journalist who has been reporting around the rugby globe for over 20 years. A former editor of the leading rugby union website, he is a veteran of five World Cups and cites England’s 2003 triumph as the most memorable moment of his professional career - closely followed by a night out with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal.

Topic News & Opinions
Applicable to Coaches  

Related articles

Can Japan shock the world again?

Countries have finalised their RWC squads and now finalise their preparations for the tournament. Writer Graham Jenkins in his latest article looks at Japan’s prospects as host nation and make another indelible mark on sporting history.

Coaching to inspire in your own orbit

As the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, writer Graham Jenkins reflects on how coaches should be looking to inspire, and positively influence, their players within their own orbit.

Innovate or die? Rugby's continued quest to stay relevant.

The pressure on English rugby, and the game in general, to adapt and ensure the long-term success of the sport is evident in two innovations that are set to debut next season. Writer Graham Jenkins looks at these innovations and their possible positive effect on the game and its continued evolution.

Coaches should embrace ‘half game rule’ challenge

From the start of next season, all match day squad players at every level of youth, junior and minis rugby, from ages 6 to 18, must play at least half a game. A policy that has been in place in NZ and Wales for some years. Graham backgrounds the rationale behind the move and the impact on coaches.

Is it time the Six Nations packed down behind the Nations Championship concept?

World Rugby’s plan for a ground-breaking annual Nations Championship uniting both hemispheres appeared to have little support when revealed last month but is it actually a concept we should all be embracing? Writer Graham Jenkins looks at the merits of the plan.