TWICKENHAM — Eddie Jones has backed George Ford to surpass Beauden Barrett as the world’s best fly-half in the wake of his commanding performance in England’s 58-15 win over Fiji on Saturday.
While Jones faced the press at Twickenham soon after England’s nine-try victory, Barrett was putting in his own man-of-the-match performance for the All Blacks against Ireland.
Barrett was crowned World Rugby’s Player of the Year — Jones made the tongue-in-cheek comment “Kiwis run everything mate. When you run everything, you’ve got a good chance of winning it”– last Sunday but Jones feels Ford has the potential to take the Kiwi playmaker’s crown in the future.
“I think he can be better than Beauden Barrett – no doubt about that,” Jones said. “People rave about Beauden Barrett but I don’t.”
It was Ford’s alignment in the backs that pleased Jones so much along with his role in phase play. He feels the Bath fly-half, whose club future is up in the air, is embracing “a sense of security” with England but wants him to improve his attacking game with ball in hand.
“I just think he’s got a great feel for the game,” Jones continued. “He sees opportunities. He needs to work on his running game a bit, which we will work on. He needs to be more of a threat himself. He’s actually too selfless. He needs to be a bit more selfish with the ball at times and he will start to develop that in his game.”
Ford has started all but one match in the Jones era with the anomaly coming against Australia in that first Test in Brisbane but even then he was introduced after just 29 minutes to work in tandem with Owen Farrell.
The week leading up to the match against Fiji included fresh speculation over the fly-half’s Bath future with him reportedly assessing his options ahead of the summer but on Saturday he played with a calm, assuredness despite being on the wrong end of some rough justice from the opposition.
Ford agrees with Jones that he needs to attack the line more and says the England coach challenges him on his alignment and when to be flatter and deeper. But aged just 23, Ford still has room to grow into and he dedicates his time away from the field learning from other fly-halves past and present.
“I try to watch as many games as possible, especially the other fly-halves around the world,” Ford said. “It’s intriguing to watch how the others play, how they manage the game, how they attack, how they defend, their kicking game.
“You can always pick things up and learn things and be a student of the game and learn by watching as many games as possible and by learning from the best players in the world. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
England now turn attention to Argentina as they look to stretch their unbeaten run to 13 games, 12 of which have come under Jones. They have George Kruis, Jonny May and Mike Brown back in contention to face the Pumas and Jones is focusing on finding the right tactics to tackle Argentina’s unpredictability.
“Argentina are a tricky side, not an easy side to play against and we’re going to have to prepare really well to beat them,” Jones said. “It’s about finding the right balance between playing structured and unstructured.
“We need to get an advantage in the set piece which is difficult against them, so we’ve got to find ways to do that, and then make them play unstructured rugby from situations they’re not great in.”
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Eddie Jones: Selfless Ford can surpass Barrett
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