It’s fifty for Ford

SADDLEWORTH’S George Ford won his 50th rugby union cap for England against Japan at Twickenham on Saturday (Nov 17).

Leicester Tigers’ fly-half reached the landmark during the sport’s autumn internationals.

And father Mike, who has previously been a part of the England RU coaching set-up, lavished praise on his son for reaching a half century of caps.

He said: “Our family is incredibly proud what George has achieved, and he is still only 25 years of age.

“He is back playing at his best when he was at Bath when I coached him and the future looks rosy.”

George, a former pupil at Knowsley Primary who was raised in Grasscroft, made his England debut during the latter stages of Stuart Lancaster’s reign as coach.

But it has been under Eddie Jones’ leadership that George has won most of his caps.

Mike, who has coached Bath and top French club Toulon, continued: “George has a good record for England and the win percentage with him in the side is very good.

“But in saying that, it still has to be achieved and George has done very well for England.”

George’s move to Leicester has reunited him with elder brother Joe is also a fly half at the club and usually deputises when his sibling is on international duty.

Previously Joe was at Sale and Mike joked it has cut down on travelling expenses for him as both are at the same club.

Mike, who lives in Diggle, praised Joe for the contribution he has made to his brother’s success.

He said: “All credit to Joe who, despite not playing for England, has been incredibly supportive.

“They are always at each other’s houses and push each other to improve their games.”

Mike was unable to be at Twickenham to see George reach his personal milestone.

As reported in last month’s Independent, Mike was on a mission to help Germany qualify for the World Cup.

Mike, 52, recently accepted a short-term contract to coach Germany who narrowly failed to land the 20th and final place at next year’s World Cup.

Germany were in the repechage tournament staged in Marseille, France, a round-robin involving Hong Kong, Canada, Kenya and Germany with Canada heading to the World Cup after winning all three games.

Germany finished runners-up beating Hong Kong and Kenya but they lost to Canada.

Mike, who took up his role in early September, admitted it was a tall order to qualify as Germany are the lowest seeds in their group.

But in a warm-up game Germany beat Portugal, a country with a higher world ranking,
Mike described it as a challenge as his players are part time with jobs as diverse as a nightclub bouncer, cable car driver and bricklayer.

“One quarter of the squad is playing overseas and it is hard to get the team together, but that was part of the challenge,” he said.

Mike added for most of Germany’s players this offers the one and only chancer they will get to try and qualify for the World Cup, something he uses to motivate the players.

He said: “It was hard for me trying to get over points in such a short space of time. It was not as though I have a four-year contract when you can imbed your philosophy.

“I didn’t have that time and had to adapt as a coach and have a simple plan in which I had two or three priorities.”

Mike added there was no pressure on Germany who compete in the repechage tournament between November 11 and 23.

He was also mentoring the German coaches who have been working alongside him and none have been to a World Cup so he has been able to impart the knowledge he has gained while on the coaching staffs for both Ireland and England.

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