Aviva Premiership
Ford challenged to prove his worth
ESPNscrum Staff
July 12, 2011

IRB Junior Player of the Year nominee George Ford has been told to prove he is worthy of the Tigers' fly-half berth.

Ford, 18, starred for England during the recent Junior World Championships but now faces the task of trying to break into the Tigers first team. With England fly-half Toby Flood expected to be part of Martin Johnson's final 30-man squad for the World Cup, Ford will vie with Ireland international Jeremy Staunton and Billy Twelvetrees for the ten spot.

Ford will now hope to follow in the footsteps of fellow England U20 international Owen Farrell who was instrumental in leading Saracens to the Premiership title. Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill backs Ford's playing ability but admits he is still an unknown quantity when it comes to Premiership rugby.

"If Fordy proves in pre-season that he is better than the other two, he can play," said Cockerill, talking to the Leicester Mercury. "But he has to be better than the other two. George's controlling game and kicking game are very good.

"He is still only 18 so there are question marks at the senior level. But his playing ability, there is no question about that. His ability to find space to kick to is very good; his kicking game is exceptionally good. Because he has not played at senior level, we have yet to see it against sides that defend hard off their line and are very physical, and in a pressure environment.

"So far he has passed all those tests; the next test is playing in the Premiership. He will come back on Monday and start training, and he has to win his spot and prove he can mix it. It's a step up, but others have done it. He has a mature rugby brain for his age. With Toby away, he has got an opportunity."

Ford, who knocked over 51 points during the JWC, is fairly small in stature, but Cockerill does not believe this to be an issue. "He is not a big man, but I don't mind that," said Cockerill."People can still be very physical and defend well if they are small.

"He has to prove that. Occasionally, that has let him down, even at Academy level, but you have to pick him for his strengths, and not not pick him because of his weaknesses. In the Premiership, off first phase in particular, they will be running down his channel because he is 18 and not huge. Toby is a very good defender, and he is not huge. George is only 18, let's not forget that."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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