Sale insist Ford will return 'fitter, stronger and more robust' for England

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Ford will hope to play some part in the Six Nations
Ford will hope to play some part in the Six Nations

It is six months since George Ford's last game of rugby, coming up for two years since his last England start.

Yet pretty much Steve Borthwick’s first move on replacing Eddie Jones has been to rush him back into the England fold.

Fly-half Ford has spent 202 days on the sidelines nursing an Achilles tendon ruptured in last season’s Premiership final.

He has switched clubs, from Leicester to Sale, and had an armchair view of Marcus Smith’s emergence in the No.10 shirt he wore for 58 of his 81 caps.

Why then does Alex Sanderson, Ford’s boss at Sale Sharks, so confidently expect the 29-year old to feature in England’s Six Nations squad?

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“You will see when George comes back he is stockier than ever and his metrics, in terms of strength testing, are off the charts,” Sanderson said. “He is coming back fitter and stronger and more robust.

“With England it will be a love - or a hate - triangle for No.10, because George is quality enough to do that.

“In all honesty, I think he is going to go straight to the Six Nations after a game or two."

With Smith currently injured Owen Farrell, England captain and close pal of Ford, is frontrunner to start at 10 against Scotland at Twickenham in four weeks.

Sale insist Ford will return 'fitter, stronger and more robust' for EnglandFord limps off for Leicester last season

Ford, who is from the same Saddleworth village as England defence coach Kevin Sinfield, is slated to make his comeback for Sharks against Bath the previous weekend.

“Whether he goes straight back into an international shirt or plays for us, that is something for me and Steve to thrash out,” Sanderson said.

“But George’s invitation from Steve to come straight back into the squad despite being injured and not being able to do the [fitness] tests is an indication of his inclusion during the Six Nations.”

Borthwick has a big call to make over England’s midfield. Jones went with twin playmakers Smith and Farrell at 10 and 12 and is no longer in a job.

Sale insist Ford will return 'fitter, stronger and more robust' for EnglandSale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson (David Rogers/Getty Images)

Farrell has had an exceptional season for Saracens at fly-half, his preferred position, and Borthwick might well conclude that keeping him there, inside two specialist centres, gives a better balance to an attack in serious need of sharpening.

Alternatively, given time for Ford to get back up to speed, he may turn to the playmaker who steered his Leicester team to Premiership glory last season.

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What is for sure is that Ford wants it as much as he ever has.

“When I first spoke to him he was so driven,” said Sanderson. “He still is, even at 81 caps, which is why he is such a brilliant individual.

“England was always part of the plan when he came here. This is not a semi-retirement for him from the international scene. Absolutely not.”

Alex Spink

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