George Ford has refused to hit back at former England teammate Sam Burgess who branded the No10’s father Mike – now an assistant coach at Leicester – a “snake” after the failed 2015 World Cup campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT

Burgess headed back to rugby league after England failed to make the knockout stages of the tournament five years ago and he waited until last month to claim that Mike Ford, then in charge of Bath where Burgess was playing, had undermined the England challenge in the hope of moving into Stuart Lancaster’s head coach role.

Burgess also branded George as “sulky” after he had been dropped for the key pool Wales game, a selection that resulted in Burgess coming into the starting XV.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer
Win £5,000 for your local rugby club courtesy of Budgy Smuggler

Recalling a post-finals meeting he had with coach Ford, Burgess alleged: “Mike, I don’t trust you. I think you have been playing games behind my back. You have used me as a bit of a pawn in your game of chess, I can’t put my boots on and play for you every week.

“I will never forget his face when I said: ‘I can’t respect you, I think you are a bit of a snake.’ I just felt that people behind the scenes were playing a deeper game. With George, Mike kind of infiltrated the camp; that is my take on it. After me starting against Wales, my relationship with George completely changed. He wouldn’t talk to me, he was a bit sulky.”

Despite the damaging nature of these Burgess comments, Ford would not respond when appearing before the media for the first time since the claims. He said on Tuesday 41 days after Burgess had said his piece: “I don’t feel I have to sit here and justify anything really.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’m content enough and so are my family – we are a tight family – to not respond. We can’t control what other people think and neither can anyone else control what we do day in day out. I’m not too fussed and not prepared to comment back.”

When asked if he would try to talk to Burgess about the comments he gave a quick “no” and added: “I don’t feel the need to justify any of the comments that came out. I’m content with how I go about my stuff as a professional rugby player. There is no reason to justify it.”

Ford will have to pull the tactical strings for Tigers when the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season restarts next month without a host of key players who have left the club due to financial problems.

The No10 eventually sorted out his deal to stay at Welford Road but the talent no longer available to Tigers as they finish out a disappointing season includes Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks), Jonny May (Gloucester), Telusa Veainu (Stade Francais), Jonah Holmes (Dragons), Noel Reid (Agen) and the as yet unattached England centre Kyle Eastmond.

ADVERTISEMENT

With wing Adam Thompstone also released by the Tigers, that constitutes enough players to form a back division. In response, Tigers have signed Scotland international Matt Scott, utility back Zack Henry and Harry Potter from Australia, along with Nemani Nadolo, the Fijian powerhouse wing, to bolster their options.

Tuilagi, Veainu, Eastmond, Reid and Greg Bateman all refused to sign new reduced-pay contracts and were stood down by the Tigers, who stand a forlorn eleventh in the Premiership as they prepare for restart the season away to leaders Exeter Chiefs on August 15.

Ford said: “It’s not just Leicester Tigers going through this, every business in the world is. It was a very difficult situation and everyone is going to make mistakes. As a group of players, we stood our ground a little bit but in the end we had some good dialogue with the club and a situation where it could all get sorted.

“Manu is a world-class player and a brilliant guy. He is going to be missed. I was in the academy with him and it is about moving on now. I’m sure he will be very good for Sale but we also have some good guys and the club will have to bring some players in.

“We will recruit and try to replace the guys who have left and we won’t be using anything as an excuse. We have to be better. Nemani is the biggest guy I have ever come across and is already contributing to the environment.

“It has been a testing time for everyone and you lose a sense of reality. It has been good to have a bit of a break to spend a lot more time with family and it is a break mentally and physically and I am excited to get back. “

Meanwhile, Taylor Gough, the 20-year-old Tigers back row, has been in intensive care at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham since being involved in a major road incident in mid-June. Ford admitted the squad are “devastated” about his accident

“He is in hospital and has to be looked after in a particular way. He seems in relatively good spirits and we will give Taylor and his family as much support as possible.”

 

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now