MIDWEEK MATTERS: Should George Ford be dropped from England's starting XV?
George Ford has hit the back pages over the last few days after his move back to Leicester Tigers, but Sports Gazette questions his place in England's lineup after their first two Six Nations games.
Luke Drase, Student Sport Editor
Let’s make one thing clear- George Ford is a very good player, but his past two performances have been poor.
Despite two England victories, Ford has been a defensive liability and, although his distribution has been okay, it is not what England fans are used to seeing.
Ford also doesn’t bring anything to the kicking game, so it's not as if England are losing points from conversions or penalties.
With an upcoming game against Italy, Eddie Jones has a chance to experiment with his lineup and Ford’s recent form is deserving of dropping him.
This may seem like an overreaction to just two poor performances but if England want to win the Grand Slam for the second year running they have to have their best team on the field, especially when you consider the improvement of the Scottish side and a final weekend clash against Ireland in Dublin.
Instead of ripping into Ford completely though, let’s look at one of the options Jones can use to shake up the lineup.
The most obvious change is to move Owen Farrell back into his natural role at fly-half and promote Ben Te’o into the starting lineup, taking over Farrell’s centre position.
Farrell has arguably been the most consistent performer for England in the Six Nations Championship thus far. His defense has vastly improved, his distribution is excellent, and we all know how solid he is when taking penalties and conversions.
The man who would move into his spot, Ben Te’o, has been nothing short of excellent in his limited role as a substitute in the Championship and he is deserving of a starting opportunity.
In both games, he provided a much needed spark off the bench to lead England to consecutive comeback victories.
Jones and England fans alike are hoping that this is a mere slump for Ford but sometimes a good old fashioned benching is what it takes to get a struggling player back on track.With an upcoming game against Italy, Eddie Jones has a chance to experiment with his lineup and Ford’s recent form is deserving of dropping him.”
Ben Carter, Rugby Union Editor
Dropping George Ford from the side permanently would be a dire mistake for Eddie Jones to make.
Ford has been far from his effervescent best in the first two Six Nations fixtures – his defensive weaknesses have been exposed and he’s struggled to find space with ball in hand.
Ford's glittering Six Nations performances in 2015 feel like a distant memory now and pressure is rightly being put on his position in the side - 16 wins in a row or not, this is no time for sentimentality.
In truth, however, Ford now represents a reliable and experienced option at fly-half, steering the game with poise, kicking from hand with maturity and still representing a dangerous runner with the ball in hand.
His distribution has quietly become world-class, as his ‘pass before the pass’ leading to Elliot Daly’s match-winning try against Wales showed.
The strong 10-12 partnership forged between himself and Farrell also shouldn't be overlooked, as England's two strongest playmakers boast a flourishing partnership that helps get the likes of Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May and Daly into space.
Moving Farrell to fly-half would create room for a bigger centre like Te'o but would leave England a play-maker short.
Farrell's distribution and reading of the game has greatly improved over the last few years but he has previously struggled to get the back line flowing from 10.
Other options, including Alex Lozowski and Daly, are exciting young prospects for this England side but boast neither the skills nor experience to thrive at international level just yet.
At the age of just 23, Ford is wise beyond his years and just entering his prime. Alongside Farrell, England have a 10-12 axis envied throughout world rugby.
Eddie Jones may well give another player a chance against Italy in 10 days’ time, but to drop Ford from the team for Scotland would be a gross misjudgement.