English Rugby World Cup organisers’ worst nightmare has come true: the Red Rose are the first host nation to leave its own tournament in the group stages.
With questionable selection decisions, a defeat from a seemingly down-and-out Wales and a lost-looking Number 12 pilloried by fans of both codes and the nation’s media, it would be easy for English rugby enthusiasts to go into hibernation until the Six Nations.
One Sale Sharks player however is keen to stop that from happening.
Joe Ford has called for English supporters to get behind the remaining northern hemisphere sides.
The fly-half is hoping that England fans don’t abandon the tournament altogether, after the sell-out group stages have repeatedly broken attendance records.
“It’s been a brilliant World Cup – the support has been sell-out, even the smaller games – it’s been great for rugby as a sport in this country,” he told MM.
“England supporters have got to get behind the remaining northern hemisphere teams – if one of them can win it, it would be brilliant for northern hemisphere rugby.”
If the crowd watching the Wales v Australia game in the Manchester Fan Zone last weekend was anything to go by, there was no love lost for England’s neighbours, as the white-shirted fans showed their appreciation for the defensively excellent Wallabies.
Ford, however, took a different view.
“I’d love Wales to go far because I respect what they did against England and they are a really well coached team.
“It’s a shame England couldn’t get through but hopefully the country will get behind the other teams now and make it a great event.”
On the subject of England’s performance, Ford, whose brother George was the focus of Stuart Lancaster’s number 10 selection controversy, had nothing but praise for his sibling’s performance in the World Cup.
“I’m really proud of George and what he’s done,” he said.
“It is easy to say with hindsight, but maybe if George had got more game time it might have been a different story.”
Laughing off a question from a young participant in a Sale Sharks community event about whether he envied his brother, Ford said: “A lot of people ask ‘Do you get jealous?’ but no, I don’t, I’m just proud of how he’s achieved what he has and I really enjoy watching him.
“I get more nervous watching him than when I play because that’s what it means to me – we’re a close family and we just want each other to do really well.”
Looking to the future the elder Ford brother admitted that his long-term goal would be to don the rose himself and represent his country.
“Obviously what you strive for is to play for England and I’m not quite ready for that yet but there’ll be another opportunity in four years. So if I play well you never know,” he said.
In the near future, Ford’s focus is Sharks and their prospects heading into the new Premiership season, starting with Saracens on Saturday.
“The team is shaping up really well but you never really know until you play that first Premiership game, it’ll be a different level,” he said.
“We’ve prepared as well as we can in a very long pre-season – a lot of running and a lot of weights and we’ve put a lot of good work into our attack and hopefully when it comes to that first game we can show what we’re about and get off to a great start.”
The number 10 was hopeful that Sale’s big-name signings this summer could prove the key ingredient to success for the Manchester side this year.
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) October 16, 2015
“The new signings are brilliant – all of them are internationals that have come in so it’s going to add another couple of levels to our performance.
“They are all ultimate professionals – look at Peter Stringer, he’s just an absolute pro and you can see how he’s lasted so long and it’s just going to be brilliant for the youngsters to look up to him and hopefully he’ll help improve the squad dramatically.”
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks via YouTube, with thanks.