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England full-back Freddie Steward believes his Leicester colleague George Ford has played a key role in developing him as a player.
Steward will hope to complete an unforgettable period in his career on Saturday by helping Leicester land a first Gallagher Premiership title since 2013.
Despite making an England debut only 11 months ago, Steward has rapidly become an integral figure for club and country.
And the 21-year-old credits fellow international Ford, who will join Sale later this summer, as a major force behind that rise.
“I think probably the guy who has been most influential in terms of players would be George,” Steward said.
“To train against a guy like that and with a guy like that, who is one of the best fly-halves in the world at manipulating full-backs, it has just helped my game push on.
“He has made me look silly lots of times, but they are moments when you learn and get better.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) June 11, 2022
“Hopefully it is not the last time we play together.
“I think he is one of those players that you appreciate more when you play with him, just the time he creates for other players and how he puts them in space. The little things, he is just magical.”
Silverware will be up for grabs when Leicester meet Saracens at Twickenham, with Tigers chasing a ninth league crown.
It is all a far cry from the 2019-20 campaign, when Leicester only avoided relegation because Saracens were demoted for repeated salary cap breaches.
Steve Borthwick took over as Tigers head coach a couple of months later, and they have just completed a Premiership regular-season that saw them win all their home games and remain top of the table throughout a 24-match campaign.
Steward added: “The journey the club has been on in the last couple of years, not being where we wanted to be, to then be here in a Premiership final, is testament to the coaches, the supporters, the players.
“Everyone has been working incredibly hard to turn it around.
“When Steve came in, there was an immediate change in the atmosphere and a belief that we were going to get Tigers back competing at the top of the table.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) June 12, 2022
“Steve was very clear that was his aim, and I think when a coach is very black and white with something like that, it really fills the boys with belief about having the club back where it belongs.
“Steve and Kev (Leicester defence coach Kevin Sinfield) have been massive.
“More importantly than anything, they are great people as well as fantastic coaches. They are role models, the way they carry themselves as professionals.”