x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Size no obstacle for England hopeful Ford

Youngster can handle physical battle if he plays in Six Nations, according to former England captain Lewis Moody

George Ford, centre, could be in line to start for England at next year's Rugby World Cup. Stu Forster / Getty Images
George Ford, centre, could be in line to start for England at next year's Rugby World Cup. Stu Forster / Getty Images

Lewis Moody, the former England captain, says George Ford will be able to withstand the physical battle if he makes his international debut during next month’s Six Nations championship.

The 2011 world junior player of the year has been highly regarded for several years, having made his first-class debut at age 16.

As such, Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, termed it “natural evolution” when he promoted Ford to his elite squad ahead of the Six Nations, on the back of fine form for Bath in the English Premiership.

The fly-half, 20, is seen by many as potentially being England’s starting No 10 at their home World Cup next year, with the present incumbent Owen Farrell outside him at inside-centre.

For all his attacking merits, though, Ford’s relatively diminutive stature will make him a target for opposition defences.

But Moody, who captained England in their ill-fated 2011 World Cup campaign, said he believes his former Leicester Tigers club-mate will be able to handle the pressure.

“I used to think that I could target them, no matter who the fly-half was,” said Moody, the former flanker, who is in the UAE this weekend to coach at the HSBC Dubai Rugby Festival.

“If you are a back-rower, that is your role. You have to get to the fly-half and George, as a slightly smaller figure in the team, will be well aware of that. But those smaller guys are harder to get hold of because they jink, they are more mobile, they make it difficult for you to get hold of them because they know what is coming in for them.”

Moody was still at Leicester when Ford became the youngest player in professional rugby when he debuted at age 16 in 2009.

Ford has since departed to join Bath, where his father, Mike, the former England defence coach, is in charge.

“It was obvious he was a prodigious talent at a young age and he became the youngest Leicester Tiger ever to play for the first team,” Moody said. “He wants to go out and get stuck in, impose himself on the game and make sure no one thinks he is a soft touch, especially with his dad, because from a defence coach background.”

pradley@thenational.ae