Your country calls: George Ford

IT HAS been very much a case of made in Saddleworth for George Ford who has received his first call up to England Rugby Union’s elite squad.

The 20-year-old fly half, who will feature in England’s forthcoming Six Nations campaign, was raised in Grasscroft and attended Knowsley Primary, Springhead.

And it was at Saddleworth Rangers and Waterhead where he nurtured his rugby skills, albeit initially in Rugby League.George Ford - Bath Rugby v Bristol Rugby
“I am very proud of what George has achieved having watched him play since the age of four and have seen how dedicated he is,” explained father Mike, the former Oldham RL player and coach.

George had scholarships at Warrington Wolves, Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls as it looked as though the 13-man game would be his calling.

Mike explained: “When George left school he had the choice to join Bradford Bulls and Leicester Tigers Rugby Union Club.

“At this time I was in a member of the England Rugby Union coaching staff and George would come to training camps with me and that probably influenced his decision.”

Mike added that switching codes is especially challenging for a fly half due to the fact it is such a specialised position.

George rose to that challenge becoming the youngest player ever to appear in the Aviva Premiership aged just 16 years and 237 days.

In his three years at Leicester, George made 40 appearances and scored 253 points and appeared in two Premiership finals as well as helping his club win the LV Cup.

He also represented England at under-18 and 20 level as well as playing for England Saxons which is effectively England ‘B.’

George switched clubs last summer joining Bath where he teamed up with his father who is head coach.

Mike said: “George’s gripe was he did not feel he was getting the help needed to develop and that he was standing still.

“It was a tough decision to leave because Leicester is the Manchester United of rugby. He decided he didn’t want to wait around, but make things happen.

“Luckily it has paid off as he is playing every week for Bath and winning a call up to the full England squad has fully justified his decision.”

Mike added that the father-son relationship at Bath has not caused any trouble.

He explained: “There can be problems of nepotism and favouritism, but George has been such a stand-out player that is has not been an issue.

“We still have to be wary of the relationship and we don’t talk about home life or his mum (Sally-Anne) when we are training.

“I have also spoken to our other fly half at Bath and he has no problem saying how well George is playing and that he will have to be patient.”

Mike also revealed that he was informed about George’s England call, but was unable to tell his son.

He said: “I knew 24 hours before George did, but England head coach Stuart Lancaster wanted to tell him first.

“When the news came out, George telephoned his mum and it was quite emotional.”