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Plan for George Ford to debut on Friday for Sale has been scrapped

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

This Friday’s much-anticipated Sale debut for England out-half George Ford has been scrapped. Sidelined since his first-half achilles injury when playing for Leicester in last June’s Gallagher Premiership final, the Sharks’ January 27 clash with Bath had been touted as the fixture for the 29-year-old to finally make a first appearance for his new club. However, that plan has now changed.

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson insisted there was nothing new wrong with Ford. Instead, he explained that his medical department was just being cautious not to risk the player potentially getting a soft tissue shortly before completing his full seven-month rehabilitation programme.

This decision means that Ford will now debut in the Premiership Rugby Cup game at Bristol on February 3 or in the following weekend’s knockout stage game in that tournament, with new England boss Steve Borthwick keen for him to return as soon as he is cleared to play.

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Borthwick, who was in charge at the Tigers when they lifted the league trophy at Twickenham, had brought Ford along to an England conditioning day earlier this month but he resisted the temptation to name the out-half in his Six Nations squad without him first making a club comeback.

The England coach had a telephone conversation with Sanderson last week about the likely Sale debut date for Ford and the pair agreed to chat again once he is available for selection. Asked if Ford would feature for Sale versus Bath, the Sharks DoR said: “No, he will not, much to our disappointment and frustration.

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“There is nothing askew in his rehabilitation schedule – it is on track. If we could bring him back earlier we would but I have been reprimanded by our head of medical that as yet he hasn’t taken on peak game intensity (in training) and it would be foolhardy to try and push him in a game when we haven’t seen how his body would react.

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“We are very, very positive that he won’t have a major re-injury but a soft tissue injury would be unbelievably frustrating seeing as he is a week or two away from (fully completing) a seven-month rehabilitation programme.

“He wants to play, but it’s a case of managing his expectations. I should really get our head of medical in here so you can quiz him because I have been on the phone with him most nights… He [Ford] is two weeks off a seven-month rehabilitation programme, so bringing him back early and risking a soft tissue injury would be more frustrating than the fact we can’t see him out there in a blue shirt this weekend.

“We will play him as soon as we can. We want to get him back into the Six Nations squad so the earlier Steve can see him with the ball in his hands, the sooner he will be in there. That opens up an opportunity at Bristol next week and whoever we have in the semis the week after.

“I am going to get a call off Steve next week because he is up for (Sale) selection. I spoke to him last week and he said as soon as he is available to play let’s chat again, so I’ll look forward to that conversation.”

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Asked how Ford was looking so far on the Sale training ground in Carrington, Sanderson added: “He has been brilliant in training. Some people need to be given time coming back… but he is all speed and thought. Decision-making. He has seamlessly slotted back into form because that is his USP, his X-factor, the ability to do the right thing at the right time, and we are already seeing that in the few sessions he has already had.”

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RUGBYPASS+ George Ford's timely return gives England options at No 10 George Ford's timely return gives England options at No 10
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