George Ford: Drop goals can be ‘great weapon’ for England at the Rugby World Cup

Drop it like it’s hot: George Ford produced three successful drop goals in seven minutes for England against Argentina in Marseille  (AP)
Drop it like it’s hot: George Ford produced three successful drop goals in seven minutes for England against Argentina in Marseille (AP)

George Ford believes the drop goal can be England’s most potent Rugby World Cup weapon.

Fly-half Ford landed a career-best three drop goals as England dismissed Argentina 27-10 in Marseille to open their Pool D campaign in style on Saturday night.

Ford pinged six penalties too in the ninth-equal highest points haul by an England player in a Test match.

England lost Tom Curry to a red card in the third minute but shook off their latest disciplinary issue to prevail over Michael Cheika’s spooked and edgy Pumas.

Drop goals go in and out of fashion in Test rugby, but Ford has brought them right back for the 2023 edition in France.

And the Sale playmaker admitted England know full well the impact the three-pointers can have in this competition.

“Marcus Smith, Owen Farrell and I practise drop goals every day with Kev[in Sinfield] and Wiggy [Richard Wigglesworth],” said Ford.

“We understand how big they are in general, but especially at World Cups; it is just such a great weapon.

“If you get a penalty you are probably going to go for three more often than not. It is exactly the same.

“In situations like tonight to keep the scoreboard ticking over when you are not necessarily getting penalties every so often, then the drop goal is a great weapon.”

Curry will now face a disciplinary hearing following his red card, for a head-to-head collision with Pumas full-back Juan Cruz Mallia.

England appeared the team with the extra man, such was their dominance over a concerningly poor Argentina.

Manu Tuilagi even stepped in at flanker to level out the scrum, and was praised by his colleagues for his potency in the set-piece.

England were without suspended duo Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola for the Stade Velodrome encounter, and Curry could now face a ban of his own.

Vunipola will be available to return for the Pool D clash against Japan in Nice next weekend, however. Ford was left in full admiration of England for handling their red card with the highest possible amount of calmness.

“Well, it’s obviously happened a fair bit to us before,” said Ford. “So it’s the same process, stay calm. What do we need to do? What does the plan look like?

“It honestly didn’t feel like we were a man down at times. It’s unbelievable. The mentality you can have when you are a man down and you don’t make it feel like that.

“It’s probably a big lesson for us, that. Obviously field position for us was crucial. The set-piece was brilliant tonight, and our discipline in defence took a massive step forward. That got us field position to kick points.”

England boss Steve Borthwick will be boosted significantly by a genuine landmark win for his Red Rose tenure.

The 43-year-old had been under increasing pressure after six defeats in nine matches prior to the World Cup, but now England can look forward to a calmer Pool D programme.

Borthwick hailed Ford for his stellar game management in Marseille.

“I see his all-round skill set as top class. His ability to run, pass and kick is top class,” said Borthwick.

“His ability to think clearly in the highest pressure circumstances is exemplary.

“He seemed to have more time when he was kicking those drop goals or those high balls, and I think that’s the sign of a really top-quality player.”

Captain Courtney Lawes delivered a monstrous performance in the back row, winning several try-saving turnovers as England flexed some serious muscle.

The Northampton back-five forward was quick to build on the praise for Ford, adding: “He sees things that a lot of players don’t see.

“He’s got to organise a lot of players as well as himself and he did that really well tonight.”