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England's George Ford: I'm smaller but I don't feel threatened

Published 16/09/2015

England's George Ford is comfortable flying the flag for smaller players in rugby
England's George Ford is comfortable flying the flag for smaller players in rugby

England fly-half George Ford is happy to be the standard-bearer for diminutive players in a sport now populated by giants.

Ford's stature will be placed into sharp perspective when he is targeted by Fiji in Friday's World Cup opener at Twickenham, with 20-stones wing Nemani Nadolo set to be unleashed down his channel.

It will be a test of Ford's nerve and technique if he is forced to stop a player almost seven stones heavier and eight inches taller, and as practise for the David v Goliath mismatch he has been tackling Billy Vunipola and Sam Burgess in training.

Evidence to support the old adage of a 'game for all sizes' may be increasingly hard to find amid the muscle-bound brutes that dominate professional rugby, but Ford insists guile can still master brawn.

"Obviously I'm smaller than most lads on the pitch, but I don't feel threatened by it. There are other areas of game apart from being big and powerful," Ford said.

"There is the mental side of it, being smarter, cleverer, quicker and having a feel for the sport.

"I do get asked the question about my size a lot - little lads come up to me and say 'you're not very big'. And they are usually bigger than me!

"I tell them not to worry about it and make sure that they can kick the ball."

Ford's fly-half channel may be viewed as an area to exploit by Fiji, but it is his Bath team-mate Anthony Watson who must stare down the Islanders' goal-kicking juggernaut for the whole 80 minutes.

Four tries in three matches has elevated Watson to the status of England's main strike weapon, but the 21-year-old knows it is his defence that will be tested when the eyes of the rugby world turn their gaze to Twickenham on Friday.

"It's a good opportunity," Watson said. "I've got tremendous respect for him as a player. He's a world-class winger.

"I'm approaching it like I would playing against George North. I'll do my homework on him, try to pick out areas where I can potentially impose my game on him and look at areas where he's particularly strong.

"You're not going to play against wingers the same size as you every weekend. You've got to be able to adapt to the size and strengths and weaknesses of your opposition winger.

"Across the board in their back line, Fiji have game breakers. Defensively all of us are going to have to be on the money.

"They're all pretty much big blokes and they've all got good footwork. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

Ford admits that after months of build-up and a punishing 10-week summer training camp, he is pleased that the World Cup is finally about to begin.

"We've been waiting for this a long time - it's been a long pre-season," he said. "It's been nice to have a couple of warm-up games to get back into match mode.

"To finally get the World Cup kicked off, it's a bit of a relief. We've been waiting for it, we are ready for it and we can't wait to get out there."

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