'Standout traits': The Leicester reaction to Ford's England recall
Steve Borthwick reckons George Ford owes his England call-up after ten months away from the international squad to his relentless approach to pre-season training with Leicester last summer and the consistency he has gone on to show in everything he has done since then. Until Monday’s official recall by Eddie Jones, there were fears that the 28-year-old could become the new Sam Simmonds of English rugby.
The Exeter No8 went nearly four years without an England appearance, getting repeatedly excluded from Test selection from March 2018 through to November 2021 despite his stellar form in recent seasons.
Ford’s exclusion was considerably less, dating back to his start against Ireland in last year’s Six Nations. Yet despite being the Gallagher Premiership’s form player – never mind being the top player at out-half – this season, that wasn’t enough for him to gain selection in the 36-strong England squad announced last week by Jones who instead saw fit to pick uncapped youngster Orlando Bailey along with his new favourite Marcus Smith.
In the end, it took an injury setback to skipper Owen Farrell to pave the way for the recall of Ford and he is now at the England training camp in Brighton trying to force his way up a pecking order where Smith has started four of the last five Test matches with George Furbank wearing the No10 against Tonga in November when Farrell was forced into isolation.
“One of the standout traits of George Ford is consistency every single day in training hard and trying to get better,” explained Leicester boss Borthwick about his player’s England recall. “The consistency in the level of his performance has been exceptional so you know with George Ford that is what you get, the consistency of his attitude, the desire to help the team. It’s unquestionable and I can’t praise him highly enough.
Ex-England boss Lancaster has taken a deep dive into one aspect where he feels Andy Farrell's Ireland have it much better than Eddie Jones' England… #England #Ireland #SixNationshttps://t.co/LRw6NPd1p2
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 25, 2022
“I have no doubt that George will be incredibly professional and train really well as all players do because they want to be the best players there, they want to be the best they can be and they want to earn their chance in a matchday 23 with England so I have no doubt that is how he will be.
“The work he did last summer, to come back from the knock he had, to get himself as sharp as he is and to then perform the way he has for Leicester Tigers, he has just got on with just performing as well as he can and helping the team, so I am very grateful to what he has done and I feel very privileged to be able to work with him.
“We have certainly spoken to him (since his England recall). I’m delighted that he has been picked into the England squad. Now what you have got to do, as every player knows, getting into the squad is one thing and he will I’m sure want to put his best foot forward to push his case for selection for the matchday team.”
Borthwick wouldn’t entertain the debate over why Ford had been excluded by England from their recent squad. What he was happier to explore was the influence that the 77-cap international has had on a revitalised Leicester squad that is leading the Gallagher Premiership and finished as the No1-ranked qualifier from their twelve-team Champions Cup pool.
“I’m very happy to comment on his call-up – I’m delighted for him. He has worked exceptionally hard. He is a proud Englishman and I have seen him want to do really well for the Leicester Tigers and really well for England, so I am delighted for him to be called up. He has played exceptionally well this season.
“He had a knock at the end of last season and it carried for a long period. He has worked very hard to get back to full fitness, full sharpness through the pre-season and this season he has looked very sharp.
“He is fearlessly competitive, he wants to do really well for Leicester Tigers, he is passionate about England and he is really supportive of young players to try and help them as well. I can’t praise his professionalism enough.
“I see it on a daily basis. He is one of the very last players to leave the training field, one of the very first players on it and the amount of time he spends with younger players helping them, the amount of time he gives his experience and his knowledge, he is giving it to everybody else. He does that really generously and he is a fantastic team man.”
The belated inclusion of Ford for the injured Farrell upped the Leicester representation in the England squad to six, one more than the next-best Harlequins and Exeter. For Borthwick, it’s a statistic he understandably likes.
“I’m delighted for all the players that have been picked,” he enthused, Ford joining Ellis Genge, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum, Ben Youngs and Freddie Steward at England camp in Brighton. “We are all really proud of them and I want as many players as possible achieving all their personal ambitions.”
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