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George Ford commands respect

England star George Ford has been hailed as a player who "commands authority and respect" as he prepares to orchestrate Bath's bid for Aviva Premiership title glory.

Ford and his team-mates will arrive at Twickenham on Saturday for a showdown that has been billed as a classic clash of styles between Bath's all-singing, all-dancing attacking approach and Saracens' immense defence and prolific kick/chase game.

Among many intriguing individual battles will be the contest between England fly-half incumbent Ford and his principal World Cup rival for the number 10 shirt Owen Farrell.

And Ford is also likely to receive close attention from Saracens' tough-as-teak openside flanker Jacques Burger, whose blistering performance against Northampton last weekend played a major part in ending Saints' reign as English champions.

"We played Leicester last week, who George used to play for," his father and Bath head coach Mike Ford said.

"Their coach is pretty passionate, and their team-talk was to stop George Ford. He actually said it in the paper.

"So in training last Thursday we had somebody in an orange shirt who was all over George all the training session.

"He is all about the team, George. If it is on for him to stand and pass at the weekend because Burger is all over him, then that is what he will do. If it is on for him to just kick to the corners, then that is what he will do.

"If it is on for him to go to the line and take Farrell on, that's what he will do. He will do what is best for the team.

"As good as mates as they are, and both fighting for the England number 10 shirt, that won't come into his psyche at all.

"The way he (Ford) is here at Farleigh, the way he is at meetings, he commands that authority and respect in terms of 'this is what we are doing and why we are doing it'."

Mike Ford, meanwhile, feels that Bath are ahead of schedule with regard to their progression, which this season has seen them reach a Premiership final and the European Champions Cup last-eight.

"The environment changed completely two years ago," he added.

"Bruce (Bath owner Bruce Craig) invested a lot of money and wanted some fun at the weekends. Of course he wants to win, but he did not want to win playing a game that did not excite him.

"We sat down with him, some of the leaders and some fans, and we set out on this attacking philosophy.

"Then the second thing is it is player-owned, an environment where players make decisions. It's a fantastic leadership group.

"You have to do it every day, you have to create an environment where they make decisions every day.

"When teams look at Bath and think 'we will play the same way,' they can't, because they don't do it every day. We have an attacking philosophy and it's player-owned and player-led.

"We are a little bit ahead of where I thought we would be, but you look at the fantastic players we have at the club and you think it's no surprise we are where we are."

And Ford is braced for a fearsome examination from a Saracens side that ended Northampton's reign as Premiership champions by beating them 29-24 at Franklin's Gardens three days ago.

"Saracens' fundamentals are brilliant," Ford said. "The desire they have defensively, what they do at the ruck, and the line-speed they've got.

"People say the only way you beat Saracens is by playing like Saracens, and I suppose that is one way, but we are going to go another way to try to beat Saracens.

"In the Champions Cup semi-finals this season, Clermont Auvergne the week before had put five tries on Northampton, and then they played Saracens and kicked everything. That's not Clermont, and they very nearly lost."


From Belfast Telegraph