George Ford – Sale Sharks fly-half on Eddie Jones, attack & his return

George Ford ruptured his Achilles in the Gallagher Premiership final earlier this year for Leicester Tigers

Injured Sale Sharks fly-half George Ford says that it is not in the players’ ‘remit or responsibility’ to influence the future of England head coach Eddie Jones following a disappointing Autumn Nations Series campaign.

Since Saturday’s 13-27 loss to South Africa at Twickenham, the tides have turned against the Australian coach, who has reportedly been stood down from his proposed visit to France this week to look at hotels and facilities ahead of England’s Rugby World Cup campaign in the country next year.

Losing to Argentina and the Springboks over the course of November, England largely failed to impress in all four of their fixtures. They did convincingly beat Japan 52-13 and draw to the All Blacks 25-25, the latter coming thanks to a finish with a flourish in the last 10 minutes - that period far from being enough to define the 2022 season.

Now Jones’ future is in doubt, the 62-year-old under inspection from the RFU’s review panel after finishing the calendar with a first losing record since 2008 and ending the game against the Boks with the home crowd booing the team off the field.

“As a player, these things are so out of our control,” Ford said. “Who are we to say [who] should be in the job and shouldn’t be in the job? All we do as a player is do our job as well we can.

“I’m at Sale with Alex [Sanderson] now and I’m trying to do my job as well I can for that coach. This is the whole thing. It’s not part of the players’ remit or responsibility to have the opinion to try and influence that.”

At the forefront of England’s attack three years ago as the team reached the World Cup final in Japan, Ford has watched on with many of us as the side has failed to fire. 

It was something symptomatic in their Six Nations campaign earlier this year too, England having maintained for some time now that they are developing an attack which will take on the world in less than 12 months’ time.

“It’s difficult,” Ford said. “When you’re not there and you don’t understand what they’re trying to do day-to-day, week-to-week and the messaging they’re going after. It’s very, very hard to comment.

“What I do know is that international rugby is a massive step up from Premiership Rugby. It’s a lot more challenging when you’ve got the ball, not that you can’t attack and have that mindset to attack – of course you can, you can play some great rugby internationally.

“It’s just difficult to say, it is. I’m sure the boys won’t be too happy with the way things have gone, but it won’t be through a lack of clarity or a lack of trying. It’s just sometimes what happens.”

Last year, Ford was far and away the form playmaker in the Gallagher Premiership. His form in no short part a contributing factor to Leicester Tigers’ Premiership title, although he did sustain a ruptured Achilles in the final against Saracens.

Playing in front of a dominant pack, similarly to when he reached the final with Bath back in 2015, his exclusion from Jones’ plans for the Autumn Nations Series were perplexing and it was only after injury to Owen Farrell that Ford took part in England’s Six Nations campaign.

Not only a top-class player, Ford has a tactical mind. It would probably come as little surprise to you that his father and two brothers are coaches [no doubt about the post-playing career there] and is able to dissect the game to a high level too.

So when asked about why England’s 2019 attack was effective, says that his thought on that aspect of the game has changed slightly.

“It [2019] was a long time ago now,” Ford said. “My mindset on attack now is that there should be a good flow about it. It should look effortless, and it should be ‘bloody hell, how did they just create that opportunity there? They made that look so easy’.

“That’s what we’re trying to do at Sale a bit more now. How do we get that flow in attack? How do we get momentum in attack? What’s the easiest way to do it? Sale are doing brilliantly now – look they’ve gone to that edge or look they’ve done that or look there’s an opportunity there.

“It should have that sort of feel about it. It probably takes a bit of time to get. As a 10 that’s when I feel at my best because you understand what you’re trying to do; you understand momentum, you understand what options you’ve got. It’s just a case then of trying to pick the right one.”

Joining Sale off the back of his first long-term injury of his career, Ford has thrown himself into helping his team as much as possible. Moving back to the place of his upbringing in the north-west, Ford’s main concern has been getting to know his teammates and has been helping Paul Deacon coordinate the attack.

Rob du Preez has enjoyed some great form at fly-half in Ford’s absence, Sharks currently second in the Premiership table having lost just two games. Likely to debut for his new club either at the end of December or in the New Year, his return is coming and at that time the 29-year-old harbours ambitions of not only pressing on for Sale, but potentially England too.

“100 per cent, yeah,” Ford said. “I’d like to think I had the hunger anyway, but a bit of time out probably heightens that a little bit. My sole focus is getting back and playing as well as I can for Sale and then anything other than that is out of my control in terms of international stuff. I’m looking forward to trying to come back a better player for the club.”