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England must pick on form - Ford

Bath boss Mike Ford has warned Stuart Lancaster to govern his World Cup selection on form not reputation, while insisting Sam Burgess would have been called up to England's training squad irrespective of Manu Tuilagi's Test exile.

Ford revealed he feels England let the past glories of the 2003 World Cup win dent selection for the 2007 tournament in France.

The former England defence coach has also conceded Tuilagi's absence will hit Lancaster's preparations for the autumn tournament, with the Leicester centre banned until January after his conviction for assaulting police officers.

"I remember after the World Cup in 2003 and I came on board in 2006 and we were still picking players who played well in 2003," said Ford.

"We were, because we were saying: 'we can't drop him, he's won the World Cup'.

"So if you pick the men in form it's not hard really."

Leicester's Samoa-born centre Tuilagi pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting a police officer last week, and was immediately banned by the RFU.

England coach Lancaster wasted no time in jettisoning the 23-year-old, sticking resolutely to his hard-line disciplinary policy.

Tuilagi has battled groin problems since October and was facing a race against time to be fit for the World Cup in any case, and his absence could now boost Burgess' chance of making England's final squad.

Bath have viewed Burgess as a blindside flanker in recent weeks, while England see the former South Sydney star as a crash-merchant inside centre.

Lancaster names his 45-man World Cup training squad on Wednesday, with Burgess sure to be on that list.

Bath host Leicester at The Recreation Ground in Saturday's Aviva Premiership play-off, where Burgess is primed to feature in the back-row once again.

Ford warned Lancaster selecting on reputation can prove a "dangerous" game, drawing on his experiences from England's topsy-turvy 2007 World Cup campaign.

"It doesn't help England does it? It doesn't help I don't think," said Ford of Tuilagi's World Cup absence.

"But he's not played all year; it would have been a tough call anyway to get him fit for the World Cup.

"I don't know his injury and when he would have been back.

"He's been one of the best players over the last few years, but it's like anything, I did it when I was England coach - sometimes you pick on reputation and it's a dangerous thing to do.

"You've got to pick the guys in form and the guys who are performing now.

"And obviously he's not played for 12 months.

"I think Sam Burgess was going to be in England's training squad anyway, whether Manu was in it or not.

"I think he was going to be in the wider squad, and Stuart wants to have a good look at him every day, and potentially play him in a warm-up game and see how he goes.

"I think what's happened is, because he's played (number) six in the last few games his versatility has got England thinking potentially he can cover two positions now and that adds to his bow doesn't it.

"It's nothing to do with Manu. Stuart was going to pick him in the wider squad anyway and have a look at him in that respect.

"Stuart has got to decide how to play with his 12 in particular; Sam and Kyle (Eastmond) are different players.

"If he can have the ability to change it during the game for certain reasons that's good as well I think."


From Belfast Telegraph