George Ford: England ‘don’t want the benefit of the doubt’ after historic defeat

England's Maro Itoje and George Ford appear dejected during the World Cup warm-up match against Fiji at Twickenham Stadium, London Credit: Alamy
England's Maro Itoje and George Ford appear dejected during the World Cup warm-up match against Fiji at Twickenham Stadium, London Credit: Alamy

England fly-half George Ford rued the Red Rose’s inaccuracy and inconsistencies after Saturday’s 30-22 loss to Fiji and urged his side to improve ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Fiji ran in three tries at Twickenham, handing England their first loss against a Tier Two nation in the professional era.

Error ridden performance

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed with the result,” Ford told Planet Rugby’s James While after the game.

“Anytime you play for England, especially at Twickenham, you’ve got to pull out on the right side of the scoreboard, and unfortunately, we had a lot of errors today.

“With errors, you can’t build pressure, and you give teams too many opportunities and fair play to Fiji; they responded very well and took their opportunities pretty clinically.

“So for us, it’s going away and having a real good look at that because at Test level you need to build pressure far better than we’re doing at the minute.”

England raced into a 8-0 lead in just as many minutes, with Ford slotting a penalty before setting up Jonny May to score in the corner. The experienced number 10 said that England aimed to start well and did but that the conditions led to more errors.

“We wanted to start the game with energy and challenge Fiji in different areas, moving the ball a bit and set-piece and things like that. Obviously, the rain came down in that second quarter, and it makes it a different game,” he said.

“There was lots of areas within that period 20-minute period where I was pleased, but I also thought we needed to show more accuracy and control in terms of when those errors were occurring, how we dealt with them and how we could get back in the opposition half. It was a bit tit for tat, and I think at half-time, we felt in a decent position, but the first five or 10 minutes of that second half was disappointing for us.

“Maybe it’s intent, but in the way we’re going about things in terms of practice and training, it’s where the way we want it to be in terms of how we want to attack and how we want to cause the opposition problems, but obviously we’re making too many errors. Now what the reason for that I can’t be sure.

“Maybe it is a little bit of over-eagerness or a little bit of inaccuracy, or maybe it is a little bit of understanding. It’s probably a little bit of all of it, to be honest, but one thing for sure is we can’t keep doing it.

“We can’t keep making them errors because, as I said before, you don’t build enough pressure yourself, and you give the team so many opportunities to come back, and Fiji did that brilliantly.

“Whether you’re trying to run and get the ball, Jonny [May], or pass me the ball, there’s many ways of doing it. Obviously, you need to have a good shape and structure to try and create one on one’s and breaks. But then, when you do carry the ball, it’s all about how many numbers you can take off their feet and the intensity with which you do that with.”


Improving the attack

England’s attack has been widely criticised of late, with May’s score being the first time in over six hours of action that a backline player had crossed the whitewash. However, there was a notable improvement against Fiji, and Ford believes that can carry that momentum into the World Cup.

“I felt at times that worked really, really good in terms of moving the ball and asking questions, but we didn’t, as an overall performance and overall package, not just the attack, be consistent enough in what we did,” he said.

“Nothing changes in terms of what we have to do in two weeks’ time against Argentina; obviously, like the results and the performances in these last four games, of course, we’d like to be in a bit better place in terms of our performances, but were unbelievably excited to start the tournament and those first games, from previous experiences of the World Cups, are always pretty big anywhere. We played Tonga last in 2019, and that was difficult for many reasons.

“There’s things are going well, but we’re just not consistent enough with it. It’s like almost we take one step forward and two steps back a little bit at times, you know like we do something really well and then we’re either like inaccurate in terms of the turnover or we give a penalty away, rather than there’s like an underlying theme or a trend.

“It’s a lot of things, and it comes back to the fact that we’re not consistent enough. But when it comes to our game plan against Argentina and our understanding of what we need to do to win that game, we’ll be crystal clear on it. And yeah, I’m more than confident we’ll be able to get right for that game.”

“We don’t want the benefit of the doubt”

The fly-half admits that Steve Borthwick’s charges must conduct an uncomfortable inquest to improve in time for the global showpiece.

“There’s an urgency that we need to fix it and get better,” he added.

“We’re not brushing that under the carpet by any stretch of the imagination. We’ll be honest and upfront about it because it’s costing us at the moment.

“The way you do that is to be more consistent in training. We’re clearly not consistent in training, there are probably too many errors in training, and we’re probably playing the way we train at the minute, which is not good enough, obviously.

“We never underestimated Fiji and understood the quality of player they’ve got, the coaching they’re now receiving. The way they play is now incredibly dangerous. There aren’t many teams in the world that when they make a line break, there’s no catching them. They’re pretty clinical in that respect, and they’ll be a real danger at the World Cup. We’ll congratulate Fiji because they played a great game, but we understand and know we need to do better.

“We don’t want the benefit of the doubt; we know we haven’t played well enough and know the results haven’t been good enough. Steve is unbelievable at his meticulous planning, and we’ll have a brilliant plan for Argentina.

“When you lose for England, you understand what’s going to come with it. We’re not shying away from that. We’re going to stick together and sort ourselves out in terms of making our preparations as good as it can be for Argentina. I’m comfortable we’ll be in a good place.

“I’ve been in teams before that when things don’t go your way, it’s the easy direction to go in. But this level isn’t easy. That’s what separates the good teams from the great – when things aren’t going well, and you need to front a few things up and be honest about a few things, you’ve got to do that. Look it square in the face because you can’t ignore those things – if you do, then they will come back to haunt you later on.

Praise for Alex Mitchell

Ford adds that England want to play more attacking-styled game at the World Cup and again emphasised the need for the side to be more consistent. He also had a special mention for his half-back partner’s performance, with Alex Mitchell only linking up with the squad following Jack van Poortvliet’s injury.

“We want to be dangerous with the ball,” Ford said. “Alex’s service and speed to the ball was brilliant today. That helps the team click massively.

“We’ll look to improve those things, but the word for us is consistency. It can’t just be one good thing followed by a couple of compounding errors. You’re not giving yourself a chance at this level. It’s about consistency, and the only way we get that is by the way we prepare and train.”

READ MORE: Steve Borthwick ‘very happy’ with England squad despite first-ever loss to Fiji

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