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The Borthwick verdict on George Ford masterclass, Tom Curry red card

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Franco Arland/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images);

Steve Borthwick has hailed the performance of George Ford, the out-half who scored all 27 of 14-man England’s points in their redemptive 27-10 Rugby World Cup win over Argentina in Marseille.

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The rookie Test-level coach’s side came into the Stade Velodrome fixture as underdogs following a woeful run of form that featured the loss of five of their six most recent matches and the concession of 30 tries in their nine outings since Borthwick took over from Eddie Jones.

However, despite dramatically losing Tom Curry to a third-minute yellow card that was soon upgraded to a red following a second look by the foul play review officer, England demonstrated determined, inspiring resilience to upset the odds and they would have enjoyed a deserved 24-point winning margin but for the concession of a late, late consolation try.

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It was only on August 19 in Dublin when Ford started his first match for England since March 2021. A four-game suspension for skipper Owen Farrell opened the door to that Ford comeback in the No10 shirt and he went in to produce a smashing effort in France with the boot that featured a 10-minute drop goal hat-trick as well as six successful penalty kicks off the tee.

“I thought George was magnificent this evening,” beamed Borthwick in the aftermath. “Not just his kicking where he scored the points, but his composure and his management throughout. Tonight is another example of the great leadership that is in this England team.

Points Flow Chart

England win +17
Time in lead
55
Mins in lead
5
69%
% Of Game In Lead
6%
34%
Possession Last 10 min
66%
3
Points Last 10 min
7

“A lot has been said in the past about the leadership in the England team but what I see is a group that is packed full of senior players who are fantastic leaders like the man next to me [Courtney Lawes]. George, as we have discussed, Jamie George, Ellis Genge, the list could go on. We just said not one man wins a game and they did very well today.”

Tell us more about Ford, though. What makes him so special? “I see his all-round skill set is top class, his ability to run, pass, kick is top class and his ability to think clearly in the highest pressure circumstances is exemplary.

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“He seemed to have more time. When he was kicking those drop kicks it felt like he had more time. When he was kicking those high balls it felt like he had more time than other players do and I think that is a sign of a real, real top-quality player.

“Come World Cup there is a higher instance of drop goals, higher than tier one rugby outside World Cups. George took the opportunities really well today.”

Lawes, who has taken over the captaincy in Farrell’s enforced absence, added: “He [Ford] sees things that a lot of players don’t see. He has not just got the job of getting himself right but he has also got to organize the team around him and he does that exceptionally well. Today he really put us in a position to a position and win that game.”

Curry’s yellow for his head-on-head collision with Juan Cruz Mallia was soon upgraded to red but, in contrast, there was no upgrading the yellow card shown soon after to Santiago Carreras for his collision with Ford after the England player had got his kick away.

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Despite Curry being the third England player to be red-carded in four matches, Borthwick refused to be drawn into comment on that incident. However, he did reference the Carreras incident, remarking how a similar yellow card for Mallia against South Africa resulted in a citing and his suspension for his collision with South Africa’s Grant Williams.

“Clearly I am not going to comment on what is going through the disciplinary process now,” said Borthwick about Curry. “I thought the other one was very interesting. It looked very similar to an incident just a few weeks ago that upgraded to red, so we will wait and see what comes.”

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It was Thursday, on arrival in Marseille, when Borthwick stressed he felt his team had been written off way too early as the World Cup hadn’t even started. How vindicated did he feel after he was proven correct?

“I talked during the week about how I sensed from the players that they felt they had been written off a little too early and I think they are a quality group of players and I reiterate that again, you saw that out on the pitch today. The players showed their experience on the big occasion. I certainly felt that these players were ready to perform on the biggest of stages.

“Right now we are pleased with the win, pleased that we stepped forward in some areas. We have to adapt. We are going through a disciplinary process now with Tom Curry so we will have to be ready for what comes from that to prepare for Japan next Sunday.

“These players should rest, recover and enjoy this week because they deserve it. From a coaching point of view, we move onto Japan and our preparation for Japan with the team will start on Monday.”

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Anthony 314 days ago

Not a Ford fan but he had a hell of a game. Well done to adapt so early and pull the team through . He could not have done it without the oack winning so many penalties so a big shout out for them too .
No tries yet again so his running ability will have to come out at some point . Still not convinced he will be able to do that against the big boys .
A far better result than we were all hoping for .

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Shaylen 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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J
Jon 9 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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