England recall fit-again Ford ahead of Wales Six Nations clash
Fit-again fly-half George Ford was one of a trio players returning from injury included in a 36-man England squad announced Sunday for next week's Six Nations clash away to Wales.
The 29-year-old, now at Sale, has been out of England action since rupturing the Achilles tendon in his right leg during his last match for Leicester in the English Premiership final last June.
During that time the debate over whether captain Owen Farrell, a childhood friend of Ford, or Marcus Smith should be the starting Test fly-half has been one of the hottest topics of conversation within English rugby.
But the decision by Steve Borthwick to recall Ford suggests the 81-times capped stand-off remains very much in the thoughts of the England coach ahead of this year's World Cup in France.
Back-row forwards Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry have also returned to the squad following respective calf and hamstring injuries.
Front-row forward Kyle Sinckler, who sustained a facial injury in the 31-14 victory over Italy at Twickenham last Sunday, has also been included.
Curry's brother Ben, another back-row, has dropped out, with wing Ollie Hassell-Collins unavailable due to a knee problem.
Manu Tuilagi, dropped by Borthwick for his first two games in charge, has been omitted from this squad following a red-card playing for Sale in their Premiership loss at Northampton on Saturday, with a suspension in one rugby union competition usually carrying over into other tournaments.
England are third in the table with six points after recovering from a 29-23 loss to Scotland with a defeat of the Azzurri, their first win under former Red Rose captain Borthwick.
Wales are bottom without a point following the first two games of Warren Gatland's return as coach, having lost 34-10 to Ireland before suffering a record 35-7 defeat by Scotland.
The future of the latest England-Wales clash, a fixture with a 142-year history, remains uncertain.
The Principality Stadium match, set to take place on Saturday, February 25, is under threat from a possible strike by Wales players involved in a contract dispute with the Welsh Rugby Union.