George Ford denies Bath dip and plans to get Leicester Tigers roaring again

first_img Eddie Jones warns George Ford that Toulon move would end England career … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Topics Read more George Ford to join Leicester with Freddie Burns going to Bath in his place Bath George Ford bristles at the idea that he lost his way last season. So much so, it does not require much of a leap to chalk up his recent performances in Argentina as another motivational masterstroke from Eddie Jones.It was a widely held opinion that Ford’s form had gone off the boil in his final campaign at Bath but it was Jones who questioned it just a couple of weeks before England flew to Argentina. The 24-year-old Ford, installed as vice‑captain, responded by orchestrating a pair of victories that must rank among the Australian’s best at the helm. “How he’s been asked to play for Bath doesn’t really suit how he plays and therefore it has restricted his development,” Jones said. But make no mistake, Ford was imperious in Argentina. His goal-kicking was on the money but without Owen Farrell outside him he seized the responsibility and used the full array of his talents to sink the Pumas. It was only in November that Jones said: “George can be better than Beauden Barrett.” On that evidence it was easy to see why.Ford’s take on last season, however, is clear: “Other people thought I had a lack of form, I was quite happy with the foundations of my game. It was very easy for people to comment on my game, speculation and all that rubbish.”Those with those views were silenced in Argentina and while it is safe to assume Ford’s retort was not directly aimed at Jones, England’s head coach will no doubt be pleased. Not least because the inference from Jones’s comments is that a return to Leicester is just what the doctor ordered.Ford was 20 when he left Welford Road and lists the main difference between his game now and then as “I’ve played a lot more rugby”. Matt O’Connor, the Leicester head coach appointed towards the end of a turbulent season in March, also ended his first spell at the club in the summer of 2013. O’Connor’s presence was immediately felt but it is clear that with a pre-season under his belt and a number of new arrivals only now will his true impact be felt.Ford had agreed his return to the Tigers before O’Connor came back but with Jonny May joining a backline that also boasts Ben Youngs, Matt Toomua, Manu Tuilagi and Telusa Veainu – all of whom start against Bath on Sunday – it is a mouthwatering combination.O’Connor is in no doubt of Ford’s ability to bring the best out of it. “There was no doubt that he was going to develop,” he says. “He’s an unbelievable student of the game, he works incredibly hard. He’s a fantastic professional, he drives the group incredibly hard around the bits that he’s in control of. He demonstrated in Argentina that he’s matured, he’s at the top of the game and we’re very lucky to have him.” As fate would have it, Ford’s first match for Leicester is against his old club, a quirk of the fixture list that takes at least some of the attention off the returning Tuilagi, who makes his first appearance since January. Indeed, while not so long ago the Leicester pack commanded the attention of whoever occupied the England hot-seat, Jones will be paying close attention to the Youngs-Ford partnership at club level as well as Tuliagi and May behind.“George is an unbelievable player, hopefully he’ll bring out a bit more in me and I can bring out a bit more in him,” said Youngs. “Every week it allows you to have that telepathic understanding, not straight away but hopefully as we go through the season we will click.”While the feeling of optimism at Welford Road is inescapable, they face the side perhaps best equipped to gatecrash the top four. Todd Blackadder arrived midway through pre-season last term and so Bath were always a work-in-progress but have recruited well in Sam Underhill, who misses out, and in return for Ford, Freddie Burns, who is on the bench, came back to his boyhood club. On Sunday Blackadder has selected all three of his British & Irish Lions to start and has identified his side’s poor away record last season as the biggest barrier to progress.“How we played at home is not how we played away so it’s a mental issue,” he said. “We hold on to the ball a bit more at home and we kick the ball away more when we’re away. So it’s a fundamental mindset shift. We’ve got a backline with some X factor, we’re ready to go but we’ve got to get the ball in their hands.” Since you’re here… Share on Facebook Leicester Rugby union Share via Email Read more Premiership The Observer features Reuse this content Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Support The Guardian Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger Share on Pinterestlast_img

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