George Ford ‘like another coach’ as England prepare for Ireland showdown, says Freddie Steward
George Ford has shaped England's new attack in training and could now have the chance to control it on the field against Ireland on Saturday.
The Sale playmaker has helped Steve Borthwick impart his attacking game-plan on to the England squad, amid high acclaim from Freddie Steward. Full-back Steward hailed Ford's deep understanding of Test-match structures and his ability to manipulate international defences.
Ford could now make his first England appearance since last year's Six Nations when head coach Borthwick's side face Grand Slam-chasing Ireland in Dublin.
Ford will turn 30 on Thursday, and could receive the ultimate birthday present of selection for what would be his 82nd England cap.
England could very well reprise the 2019 World Cup midfield of Ford, Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi at the Aviva Stadium, as Borthwick's men look to atone for last weekend's humiliating 53-10 record home defeat by France.
"It's almost like having another coach around with Fordy; he's so insightful, in meetings and on the pitch," said Steward. "He's been brilliant with me, he's always on me in training. Having a guy like that around is so good and a massive boost to the team in terms of what he offers.
"His understanding of the game is second to none, he is incredible, the way he reads the game. He's one of those players that I always raise when people asked about the best players I've played with. I'd always put Fordy up there.
“But from the outside looking in, I don't think people really understand how good he is. Because the things he does, the small things, you almost have to be playing alongside him to actually understand what he does for everyone else.
"He's made me look fantastic when I've played with him, and it's all down to him, just the way he can create time and space for other people, the way he can control the tempo of games. He probably doesn't get enough credit."
Ford ruptured his Achilles tendon just minutes into last term's Gallagher Premiership Final, where Borthwick's Leicester edged out Saracens 15-12. The Oldham-born playmaker has played just four times for Sale since his summer move and recovering from his injury.
Steward tipped Ford to be fully ready if called upon, with England needing to improve out of sight from last Saturday's hammering.
"It was horrible to see George go off in the [Premiership] final that day so early, it was gutting, especially considering the part he had to play in that whole season," said Steward. "But you look at what he's done with his rehab and how hard he's worked to get back fit, and playing well again, and he's back in, which is testament to him."
England will be without form second row Ollie Chessum, after the lock suffered an ankle injury in training yesterday. Chessum's Leicester team-mate George Martin has been added to England's 30-man squad.
Tuilagi is available again after suspension and primed to step into the spot vacated by the injured Ollie Lawrence. Bath centre Lawrence suffered a hamstring injury against France, denying England the in-form 23-year-old this weekend.
Andy Farrell's Ireland team will be shooting for just their fourth Grand Slam in history, but their second in five years. England, by contrast, are desperate to atone for last weekend's loss, with Steward hopeful the France defeat can prove a turning point.
"These weeks define teams; when you go to the depths that we did at the weekend, that's where you really challenge yourselves to pull together and come up with something," said Steward. "And, hopefully, we'll look back on this when we regather in a couple of months' time and see it as a real point where we stepped on and improved."