Eddie Jones: George Ford can be better than Beauden Barrett

Eddie Jones may have made his biggest call yet since taking over as England's rugby coach - he says he has a playmaker who can be better than Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty Images.
Eddie Jones may have made his biggest call yet since taking over as England's rugby coach - he says he has a playmaker who can be better than Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty Images.

Eddie Jones may have made his biggest call yet since taking over as England's rugby coach - he says he has a playmaker who can be better than Beauden Barrett.

Jones is entitled to crow. Since he took over as England's national rugby coach after a disastrous World Cup last year, they have won 11 test matches straight and are even eyeing the All Blacks' world record of 18 successive wins.

But maybe there's something in the English tea that the former Wallaby mentor is drinking.

After reviewing a 58-15 shellacking of Fiji at Twickenham on Sunday, Jones had told English media that George Ford is the new star of international rugby.

"I think George can be better than Beauden Barrett," said Jones, purring with admiration for the way Ford played against Fiji before then making the almost sacrilegious observation.

"People rave about Beauden Barrett but I don't."

Jones is in a minority there. The judges at World Rugby's annual awards had no hesitation in naming the mercurial All Blacks first five as the International Player of the Year last week.

And Barrett's contribution in New Zealand's 21-9 win in Dublin on Sunday was so immense that former All Black halfback Justin Marshall opined that Steve Hansen's team wouldn't have won without him.

But even though Ford is locked in a battle with Owen Farrell for the starting No. 10 jersey for England, Jones is effusive in his praise of the Bath player.

"I just think George has got a great feel for the game. He sees opportunities. He needs to work on his running game a bit, needs to be more of a threat himself. He's actually too selfless. He needs to be a bit more selfish with the ball at times. But his alignment on some of the phase ball was absolutely outstanding, the best I have seen for a long time."

By Jones' measure, that would suggest Ford is the key contender to be the first choice No. 10 for the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand next year.

Welsh Wing George North breaks the tackle by Beauden Barrett during the first test match against Wales at Auckland's Eden Park. Photo / Nick Reed.
Welsh Wing George North breaks the tackle by Beauden Barrett during the first test match against Wales at Auckland's Eden Park. Photo / Nick Reed.

Farrell, Ireland's Jonny Sexton and even out-of-form Welshman Dan Biggar may have something to say about that, although the ultimate say will rest with Lions coach Warren Gatland. Sexton was a standout performer when the Lions triumphed under Gatland in Australia in 2013.

Farrell, the son of former English league great and current Irish defence coach Andy, was one of the finalists up against Barrett for the Player of the Year award. But Jones' comments suggest Ford is winning the battle for the England No. 10 jersey.

Ford says he is relishing playing under Jones.

"You always want to be a threat yourself. I think more opportunities will come along to do that. Eddie constantly challenges me on my alignment, when to be flat, when not," he said. "I watch as many games as possible, especially all the fly-halves, how they attack, how they defend, their kicking game. You are always learning. We want to be adaptable and we are getting better at it."

Jones recently hired ex-Wallaby star Glen Ella to sharpen his backline.

Meanwhile, former Lions and Scotland coach Sir Ian McGeechan says Gatland will be pleased with what he is seeing from the Home Unions in their autumn internationals so far.

"Ireland will rue their luck, some of the refereeing decisions and their inability to score the tries their performance merited," McGeechan wrote in a column in the London Telegraph. "But they certainly gave us plenty to be excited about as far as the Six Nations and next summer's Lions tour are concerned. Warren Gatland would have enjoyed what he saw in Dublin, that is for certain. Jamie Heaslip was magnificent again, as he was in Chicago. Sean O'Brien likewise. Devin Toner played as well as I have ever seen him play."

McGeechan also noted England's continued improvement.

"That final fixture of next year's Six Nations - Ireland v England in Dublin - already has the makings of a classic," he wrote. "You would have to say at this moment in time that it could be the championship decider. England had another solid outing at Twickenham, with Eddie Jones's options increasing all the time.

"Alex Goode had a good game at full-back, Elliot Daly showed once again his footballing ability with an excellent all-round performance (this time on the wing), Ben Te'o, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph, Jamie George, Nathan Hughes, the list goes on. All those players are now genuine options for Jones. It is no longer a question of 'is he good enough to play international rugby?' We now know these players are. It is more a case of 'this player brings something else to the table'. And that is a great position for England to be in because it is that variety - those options - which can make a good team very good."

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 27 May 2017 04:01:37 Processing Time: 402ms