Bath Rugby coach Mike Ford says England can overcome Wales in RBS 6 Nations showdown
Mike Ford says there are fewer tougher tests in world rugby than the one England face in order to complete the Six Nations Grand Slam – but backed them to get the job done on Saturday (5pm).
Having edged past Italy last Sunday, Stuart Lancaster’s side travel to Wales this weekend knowing victory will secure them a first Grand Slam in a decade.
Wales can still win the tournament themselves, however, and a home victory by more than seven points will keep the trophy at the Millennium Stadium.
Bath first-team coach Ford, who worked as England defence chief from 2006-2011, believes England will use any doubts that may have risen against the Azzurri to inspire them to glory in Cardiff.
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“It’s a great opportunity for them. It will be a fantastic occasion but it’s very, very tough going to the Millennium Stadium,” said Ford, who also spent four years as Ireland defence coach before taking up the same post with England.
“I was involved in nine Six Nations and think I only won there twice.
“You couldn’t really get two bigger rivals fighting it out and the added spice is that Wales can still win the championship.
“They are not just playing to beat England, they can win it themselves, and that’s pretty impressive from that first half of the first game against Ireland.
“The Italy result will give England all the more determination to go out and win it – and I think they can.
“They didn’t perform to the level they would expect but they’ll look to go out and better that now.
“They’ve looked the hungriest team throughout the tournament, from the way they carry the ball to the way they tackle – I’ve been really impressed.”
Ford knows all about Grand Slam deciders, having faced one against Ireland in 2011 during his time with England.
They came up short in Dublin two years ago and Ford admits the chance to deny England again will see Wales raise their game.
“Having worked in the Ireland set-up I know just how much playing England means to the other home nations,” said Ford.
“Every time they play them it’s seen as an opportunity to beat this great England side.
“In 2011 Ireland had so much passion. It was the last game and they couldn’t win the tournament but to get a win against England was massive for them.
“Grand Slams are hard things to win. I think they’ve only won 12 in the history of the competition, so if Stuart can get one it will be a great achievement.
“Every time you go away from home in the Six Nations and get a win it’s a great result.
“When it could be for the Grand Slam in Cardiff, if they do it, it will be really, really impressive.”
Bath have a representative in either camp, with props Davey Wilson and Paul James expected to be in the match day 23 for England and Wales respectively.
Ford says the duo’s involvement in such a crucial game can only be good for the club.
“Davey will be disappointed not to have played as much as he would have liked but Paul started last week and did really, really well,” added Ford. “Hopefully they can both be involved this weekend and it’d be great if they can have a huge impact.
“That’s what we want, because it’s good for us to have players involved in that kind of environment.”