Leicester have jumped to the defence of Mike and George Ford after they came in for extraordinary criticism during the week from Sam Burgess, their former colleague at Bath in 2015. Burgess, the rugby league star from England who made his name at the NRL title-winning Rabbitohs, spent that year in union being coached by Mike at Bath and playing with George for both Bath and England.

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Reflecting on the 2015 World Cup campaign which ended in pool stage elimination for Stuart Lancaster’s squad, Burgess made stinging accusations about the Fords. Mike Ford was accused of being a “snake” whom Burgess alleged tried to “sabotage” England boss Lancaster as he wanted the job himself.

Burgess added that his relationship with George Ford was never the same after the out-half was dropped to the bench in a selection reshuffle that saw Burgess play at No12 outside Owen Farrell at No10 in the game two defeat to Wales at Twickenham.

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It was an extraordinary attack, the likes seldom heard in rugby where dressing room tensions are usually kept under wraps, and Leicester have now voiced their support of George and Mike Ford – George joined the Welford Road club in 2017 from Bath, with his dad following as an assistant coach in 2019.

Speaking to Leicester Tigers TV about Mike and George Ford, Geordan Murphy said about the Burgess allegations: “It is really strange and it has come at a strange time to be dragging things up from five years ago. I have known Mike Ford for a very long time, I’ve known George Ford for a very long time. Mike coached me when I was an Ireland player. He has been through the world of rugby. He is incredibly experienced. He has been great for me in my role, in his support of me.

“And George as well has been incredible for Leicester throughout his entire career. He has got a hell of an amount of caps, he is renowned as being an unbelievable team man. So to have bits and pierces dragged up is slightly confusing. I’m certainly very confident that both of those guys are very, very well received at Leicester and they are doing a great job. So it’s not really for me to comment on that any more than for me to say that I’m very happy with the two Fords.

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“People always have opinions and that’s life. For whatever reason people say different things and we are just very happy to have both of the guys, we are very confident that they add to our environment. As I said, Mike has been great for me personally and a great support over the last couple of seasons and longer. I have known both guys a long time and they are both good human beings.”

The Burgess attack on the character of Mike and George Ford arrived in an already difficult week where Tigers laid bare a grim financial outlook – the loss of over £5million in their financial year-end report at the end of the month.

With consultations having reportedly started on potential staff redundancies, director of rugby Murphy outlined the situation during the week with the club CEO, chairman, chief financial officer and the head of recruitment all taking part in another LLTV show.

“The transparency was really important,” said Murphy. “All of the feedback I have had from friends and family has been they didn’t think we’d be as open as we have been as a club, pretty much laid it bare.

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“I thought Andrea (Pinchen, CEO) was incredibly honest and I thought the chairman (Peter Tom) was particularly impressive as well in the way we have talked about how difficult these times are, we have talked about how difficult this is for us as a club and how these decisions weigh on us. It’s not pretty, it’s not nice, but the longevity of the club is paramount.”

Murphy added that the bleak financial outlook doesn’t threaten any of the yet unannounced new signings Leicester are supposed to have made. “That’s the case. The guys who have signed we are confident they will be here contributing to the team from July 1. We have put a freeze on pretty much everything as of the start of the pandemic and we won’t be looking to add anything to what we have already signed to our environment.”

 

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