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‘I feel like a different player’: George Ford hails England’s new approach
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‘I feel like a different player’: George Ford hails England’s new approach


In England, there was a strong feeling of having experienced it before on Saturday night. When Thomas Ramos prepared to take the 80th-minute penalty and secure a close win for France, memories went back to the World Cup semi-final in Paris where South Africa’s Handré Pollard did the exact same thing. This highlights the narrow margins in professional sports, as shown by England’s recent close victory. They may have felt a sense of disappointment once again.

However, this situation will not cause as much pain or have as significant of an impact. There is a great deal of hope for Steve Borthwick’s team. Their elimination from the World Cup was received with a certain level of admiration, recognizing that a limited team had managed to make it to the semi-finals. But based on their courageous loss against France and thrilling victory over Ireland, England has regained their identity. They have once again found a strong offensive drive that seemed to have disappeared during the later part of Eddie Jones’ tenure, and their fans are once again enamored with the team.

“I stood and observed, preparing myself, realizing that this is the model for the future of the England team,” stated Danny Care, who was substituted in the second half. “The speed, strength, and precision they demonstrated, along with their determination to make a comeback in the game, makes me incredibly proud. We should all be wary because when this team is in top form, they will be nearly unstoppable.”

The turning point in this campaign – possibly for Borthwick’s leadership as well – occurred after the error-ridden loss against Scotland. The team had pledged to have “extremely honest” discussions when they met in York during the second idle week, and it has been reported that certain veteran players, and even some of Borthwick’s own staff, urged him to prioritize more training time for attacking tactics. This lack of focus was evident in the awkwardness at Murrayfield, numerous handling mistakes, the lack of consistency, and the disunity in England’s performance.

Until then, the main emphasis was on training the players in Felix Jones’s updated defensive tactics. However, in the two weeks leading up to the Ireland match, focus shifted to refining their offense, and the positive outcomes were apparent at Twickenham. Despite being bombarded in the first half, the team displayed a high level of energy as they rallied from a 16-3 deficit against France.

George Ford in action in Lyon against France.

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“In Scotland, our approach has been to be assertive in attack, using our ball possession effectively,” stated George Ford, the team’s fly-half. “We aim to be a formidable threat, constantly challenging our opponents and taking shots at goal. We’ve demonstrated this over the past two weeks. After the Scotland game, we had to step up and make a decision. We had some candid discussions and determined the type of team we want to be.”

Ford embodies the transformation. He recently marked his 31st birthday on Saturday, earning his 96th appearance, however his current performance resembles that of his teenage days with Leicester. “In the past two weeks, I’ve been aiming to play closer to the line, be more threatening and make my teammates join in with me,” he stated.

“In the game against Scotland, our positioning was too far back from the line. When playing against teams, it is important to maintain pressure, win one-on-one battles, and keep the pace of the game moving quickly – having a quick ruck. This prevents teams from recovering and allows for better attacking plays. I reflected on my own role and how I could better contribute to this strategy.”

“I feel like I’ve transformed into a different player while out on the field. Looking back, I realize that in intense Test matches, there can be a trap of getting too caught up in decision-making and game management, neglecting the bigger picture of putting the team in the best position. I may have become too focused on that aspect.”

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“Our focus shifted to one extreme and this was the main topic of discussion after the Scotland game. We knew we needed to move in the opposite direction.”

In the France match, Ben Earl once again stood out on the field and Ollie Lawrence made crucial forward plays that set up easier opportunities for Ford to make flat passes. This was evident in Marcus Smith’s try, which was set up by Earl’s break, but it was perhaps Tommy Freeman’s score, with speedy passing from Ford and Smith, that brought the most joy to supporters.

What would be Ford’s summary of the new approach in England?

“Executing flatter runs, utilizing gaps and spaces, engaging in one-on-one situations, receiving quick passes at the ruck, and maintaining a high level of intensity. We have now fully grasped the type of team we aspire to be and the level of threat we possess.”

During the match against France, there were errors made that were not the ones that Borthwick had previously mentioned. These were not mistakes that could be easily overlooked or corrected. Smith’s penalty for taking Ramos out in the air set the stage for France’s Léo Barre to score. Another costly mistake was the overthrown lineout that was fly-hacked by Ramos, leading to a try by Gaël Fickou. While there is some debate about the TMO’s intervention near the end of the match, Earl’s no-arms tackle was a blemish on an otherwise well-written performance for the No 8 player.

As thoughts turn to the upcoming summer tour of Japan and New Zealand, the main goal will be to eliminate mistakes. According to Care, there are still instances in matches where the team is striving for a flawless 80-minute performance, but it is nearly impossible to achieve. Against top teams, it is crucial to stay focused and seize opportunities to regain momentum and maintain control.

Source: theguardian.com