Ford handed first Test start

2014-11-19 19:26
George Ford (AFP)

London - George Ford is set to make his first Test start after being selected at flyhalf in a revamped England side to play Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ford, all of whose four previous Test appearances have come as a replacement, now finds himself in the No 10 shirt with regular fly-half Owen Farrell moved across to inside centre by England coach Stuart Lancaster despite unimpressive showings in this month's defeats by world champions New Zealand and South Africa

Farrell played the first two matches of his England career, in 2012, at inside centre when he was also alongside Brad Barritt, who is again set to be his midfield partner against Samoa this weekend.

"It's great to give George a start in this series after he missed the summer tour through injury," Lancaster said in a Rugby Football Union statement published on Wednesday.

"George has been impressive in camp and is now fully up to speed with the game plan and is ready to run the game. Owen switches to 12 and I'm sure will support George well."

Longtime friends Farrell and Ford played youth rugby together and helped England Under-20s reach the final of the 2011 Junior World Championship.

"The England coaches want me to be myself, they want me to go out and play my game, make good decisions and manage the game as best as I can," said Ford of a Red Rose staff where Andy Farrell, Owen's father, is the backs coach.

England's new 10-12 combination first met as young teenagers and Ford said: "My relationship with Owen means a lot to me because we understand each other's game and we've obviously done it before.

"We both try and bring everybody up to that (level of) understanding so we can gel as a team and go out there and put our game on," added Ford, who plays for a Bath side where his father Mike is the head coach.

In all, Lancaster has made six changes, including Farrell's positional switch, to the side beaten 31-28 by the Springboks last weekend.

In the backs, Ben Youngs comes in at scrum-half following Danny Care's mediocre form in 2015 World Cup hosts England's opening two Tests this month.

With Kyle Eastmond ruled out with concussion, Farrell has been moved to inside centre leaving specialist midfielder Billy Twelvetrees on the bench.

Up front, England captain Chris Robshaw is the only surviving member of a back-row where Ben Morgan has been promoted from the bench in place of Billy Vunipola at No 8 and James Haskell starts at blindside flanker instead of Tom Wood.

There is one change too in the front row, with Rob Webber in at hooker and Dylan Hartley on the bench after receiving a needless yellow card against the Springboks.

England have suffered three-point defeats in both their Twickenham encounters so far this month, losing 24-21 to New Zealand before last week's reverse against the Springboks, although late scores by Lancaster's side in each of those matches have put a Red Rose gloss on the final result.

Their current run of five straight defeats -- albeit four were against the All Blacks -- is England's worst since they suffered seven successive losses in 2006.

However, England have won all six of their previous Tests against Samoa and defeat by the Pacific Islanders on Saturday would constitute a huge upset.



15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Haskell, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Joe Marler

Substitutes: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Marland Yarde



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