London - England
flyhalf George Ford is to return to Leicester from Premiership rivals
Bath in time for the start of next season, the Tigers said on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old Ford has been a key figure during Grand Slam champions England's unbeaten run under coach Eddie Jones.
He made his senior debut for the Midlands club Leicester before joining southwest side Bath.
Part of the deal between two of England's most prestigious rugby
teams will see Leicester fly-half Freddie Burns move in the opposite
direction to join his hometown club Bath.
In October, Mike Ford was named as the coach of French giants Toulon,
sparking speculation his son could move to the three-time European
But with Australian boss Jones upholding England's longstanding
policy of only selecting home-based players for international duty, save
in "exceptional circumstances", there was never much prospect of George
risking his Test career by going to France.
"This hasn't been an easy decision for me to make, but I feel it is
the best one for me at this time," George Ford told Bath's website.
"I have really enjoyed my time at Bath and have worked with some
incredible players and coaches. I know I have developed hugely as a
player because of that," added Ford, who is now set to line-up alongside
England halfback partner Ben Youngs at Leicester.
George Ford made his Leicester debut as a 16-year-old before moving
to Bath, helping the club reach the 2014 European Challenge Cup final
and Premiership final a year later.
Burns joined Leicester from top-flight rivals Gloucester in 2014 and
started two Tests during England's tour of New Zealand in 2014.
"We are absolutely delighted to be able to confirm the signing of
George Ford, a player we obviously know well from his time here in the
academy and as a young man making the breakthrough into senior rugby,"
said Leicester coach Aaron Mauger.
"He has become one of the leading players in his position in Europe,
and is still a young man with a lot of rugby ahead of him. We look
forward to his return to Welford Road in the summer."
The former All Blacks centre added: "While delighted to be able to
bring in George, we are disappointed to lose Freddie, who has been an
outstanding player for us in the last three years."
Bath rugby director Todd Blackadder, another former New Zealand
international, said: "We are naturally disappointed that George has
decided to leave.
"He is a great player and I have enjoyed working with him, and know
that he will give us his all until the end of the season. We have a
great season ahead of us this year, and in 2017/18 and beyond."
Bath are currently third in the Premiership table, with Leicester fifth in the standings.