Ford on a mission in Germany

SADDLEWORTH’S Mike Ford is on a mission to help Germany qualify for next summer’s rugby World Cup.

Mike Ford, centre, with sons George and Joe

The 52-year-old accepted the challenge after his other employers the Dallas Griffins have put on hold their plans to join Major League Rugby in the United States until 2020.

It has given Ford the opportunity to take on the challenge of trying to win the 20th and final place at the World Cup.

Germany play Kenya, Canada and Hong Kong in a repechage tournament that is being held in Marseille, France.

The winner will go into pool B, the group of death, alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia. Germany has only 11,189 registered players as opposed to 150,727 in New Zealand.

Ford, who still has a base in Diggle, was not long ago coaching some of the world’s leading players at Bath and top French club Toulon.

The new job is far removed as one prop is a nightclub bouncer and another drives a cable car.

Ford, who used to live in Grasscroft, admitted it has been different reminding him of the 1980s when he worked as a newsagent while playing for Wigan.

But he says it is a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to face the best in the world”, something they can tell their grandchildren about.

Germany has, however, players who are playing at a higher level than Germany’s 12 team Bundesliga, though Heidelberger qualified for this year’s European Challenge Cup.

Fly-half Christopher Hilsenbeck is one of four players in the French Pro D2, prop Samy Fuchsel has been playing for Saracens and forwards Luis Ball, Mark Fairhurst and Anthony Dickinson are all on Rotherham’s books.

Ford admitted there is a lot of politics in rugby in Germany with its recent emergence funded by billionaire Hans-Peter Wild who has stepped back after conflicts with their union.

But he hopes there will be a time when Germany can have a full-time league and qualifying for the World Cup would help promote the sport.

Ford is also director of rugby, a board member and shareholder in the Dallas Griffins, but the owners have put their launch in hold to focus on their basketball franchise in the NBA.

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