Ford targets regular rugby
Leicester fly-half George Ford is aiming to follow the same path as Billy Twelvetrees, one out of Welford Road and into the England team.
Twelvetrees is poised to make his England debut against Scotland on Saturday, having left Leicester last summer in search of regular first-team rugby with Gloucester.
Ford is currently Toby Flood's fly-half understudy at Leicester and he has decided to take a similar route, convinced the only way he can develop is by playing every week.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill believes the 19-year-old - junior world player of the year in 2011 - is bound for Bath next season, where his father Mike Ford is assistant coach.
In his first interview since his departure was confirmed, Ford has explained how he agonised over the decision but was ultimately driven by a desire to play and improve.
"It is difficult when you are on the bench and you are coming on for 10 or 20 minutes each game. Playing a full 80 minutes is what I need to be doing really," Ford said.
"Like any young player, you need to be playing and the more you play the better you get. For any young player who is willing to learn and progress in their career they need to be playing as much as they can.
"It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make and I didn't take it lightly.
"Young players need to be playing to learn and develop. It (my situation) is no different to any young player."
Ford shone in the England Saxons' victory over the Irish Wolfhounds last week and he is in line to start against Scotland A in Newcastle on Friday night.
"Friday was a good start and I am hoping to improve again this week," Ford said.
"It is a great experience for us all. It is another step up from the Under 20s.
"I have been looking forward to this for a while. To get a start and get a couple of games under my belt is exactly what I wanted."
Everything comes back to the same issue of playing regularly.
Last week, Saxons coach Jon Callard insisted it is the only way rising stars can fulfil their potential. He is concerned too many get caught in a log-jam of talent at Aviva Premiership clubs.
"You can do all your training, all your fitness but playing is the only way you learn. That is the only way they develop," Callard said.
Twelvetrees found himself in the same boat.
The 24-year-old has long been earmarked for international honours but it is only since he joined Gloucester that he has been able to press his case with a consistent run of games.
"Being at Leicester really helped me. I learned a lot quickly but I couldn't put it into practice," Twelvetrees said.
"I didn't get as much game-time there as I have done with Gloucester. I have played in every Premiership game, which has been really good for my development."
Twelvetrees is set to be named at inside centre when Stuart Lancaster tomorrow confirms his starting line-up for England's RBS 6 Nations opener.
Ford is the next fly-half in line for England, behind Owen Farrell, Toby Flood and Freddie Burns.
Callard rates him as highly as Farrell, who has been hailed by Lancaster as a player with a rare talent and temperament.
"I have no doubt about his ability. I have no doubt about comparing his ability with Owen or Freddie," Callard said.
"Freddie is not frightened to back himself. I think George can do that as well.
"George and Owen are from a similar stable. They have both had a lot of pressure heaped on them at an early age and coped well with it."
Leicester were upset to lose Ford, who joined the club from the Leeds academy in 2009, with Cockerill claiming he has been badly advised.
But Ford has pledged his commitment to Leicester until the end of the season and he has vowed to keeping pushing Flood for the starting fly-half jersey.
"I spent a lot of time mulling it over and thinking about it," Ford said.
"It is over now and I will be 100 per cent committed to the club and I will be doing everything I can to make sure the Tigers win something this season.
"The rest of the season I will hopefully be playing in a few games and challenging for the 10 shirt and hopefully it will be a successful season and we can win things."
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