Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Cockerill praises Ford despite off day

Richard Cockerill admitted young fly half George Ford, pictured, had an off day

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill admitted teenager George Ford had an "off day" with the boot after Tigers edged past Aviva Premiership rivals Northampton 16-12 at Welford Road.

But Cockerill was in no mood to condemn the 19-year-old, who missed five penalties on just his second Premiership start of the campaign after replacing unavailable England fly-half Toby Flood.

"George is a very good player," he said, following Leicester's 16-12 success. "Today, he had an off day with the boot, but he did some very good things with ball in hand."

Cockerill added: "He will learn from it. He has had some pretty good days as well - in a semi-final and a final last season - and that is part and parcel of young people developing."

"I will put my arm around him and encourage him, and we will carry on. People want him to play all the time or go somewhere else to play, but we have to develop George and look after him."

Tigers prevailed courtesy of centre Matt Smith's second half try and 11 points from Ford.

On another day, Ford's inaccuracy might have proved costly, but Northampton, who were restricted to four Ryan Lamb penalties, lacked the firepower and tactical acumen to punish Leicester.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder admitted he was frustrated with Saints' third successive Premiership defeat.

He did, though, single out the performance of flanker Calum Clark on his first appearance since completing a 32-week ban after being cited for foul play against Leicester in last season's LV= Cup final.

"Generally, our defensive game was very good, apart from conceding a try early in the second half," Mallinder said. "In attack, they managed to slow us down and we didn't get as much momentum as we would have liked or create as many opportunities as what we would have liked."