The Danny Care stat that fuelled George Ford's drop goal burst
George Ford revealed on Saturday night how a Danny Care statistic ignited his imagination about kicking Rugby World Cup drop goals for England. The No10 needed just 10 first-half minutes to score three times with the tactic of dropping back into the pocket and sweeping over a kick from an Alex Mitchell pass.
With England forced to play a man down following Tom Curry’s third-minute red card, Ford’s ability to rack up the points was pivotal.
Aside from his drop goal hat-trick, he landed six penalty kicks off the tee to account for all 27 England points in their deserved 27-10 win over Pool D rivals Argentina in Marseille.
The crazy thing about Ford’s drop goal accuracy was that in his 80 previous England caps, he had scored just two drop goals – and you had to go back six years to the most recent of those kicks.
It was June 2017 versus Argentina in Santa Fe when Ford struck his last drop goal two years after opening his account versus Ireland in Dublin in 2015.
It meant that in the England team picked to face Argentina in Marseille, sub scrum-half Care had kicked more drop goals – three – than Ford in his Test career, but that was to change with an incredible scoring burst between the 27th and 37th minute at Stade Velodrome.
“Marcus (Smith), Owen and myself do some drop goals after every session,” he explained post-game in Marseille. “It is such a crucial, critical weapon at times, and you have seen how influential it has been at World Cups.
“We get the nines to pass us the ball and get other players to put pressure on us (in training). We try to make it as realistic as possible.
“The thing with drop goals is the best time to take one is when the opposition least expect it, so you try to disguise it a bit to give yourself more time and space. But the whole plan wasn’t about drop goals, it was just about imposing pressure and coming away with points.
“We were laughing because out of this squad, Danny Care is the one who has the most drop goals for England, so I thought, ‘That’s not right, I need to put an end to that’.”
Five drop goals in one game is the Rugby World Cup record, the Springboks’ Jannie de Beer putting England to the sword in a 1999 World Cup quarter-final.
Ford quipped that he thought he would match that record because such was the greasiness of the ball in the 60 per cent Marseille humidity, striking for the posts was easier option than trying to put the ball through the hands in and around the Argentina 22.
“That’s incredible,” he said about the de Beer record. “I thought I was on track at one point! But the crucial one was probably the third one, which took us more than seven points ahead. That was critical in a game where the ball was greasy and it was going to be hard to move the ball and score tries.
“You saw (in the France-New Zealand game) how far lads were kicking the ball. The temperature makes a massive difference. The ball is different from the ones we use in the Premiership. I’m not sure how but they do seem to travel a lot faster and further in the air.
“Inside the camp, we know we have not been too far away in certain areas. We felt like there was a performance building. The boys up front did a brilliant job of putting us in the right field position. Alex Mitchell and Danny Care both kicked brilliantly and we were so disciplined defensively, which gave us an opportunity to score the points.”
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