Fly-half George Ford set for Bath Rugby move after Leicester talks break down
Teenage fly-half George Ford is believed to be heading to Bath Rugby in the summer after the England under-20s star’s contract talks at Leicester Tigers reached a stalemate.
The Leicester Mercury reports today that the 19-year-old son of Bath first-team coach Mike Ford has decided to leave Tigers at the end of the season in search of more time on the pitch.
If, as expected, Ford does now decide to join Bath, the club will have to pay Leicester up to £45,000 in compensation for his services.
Bath coaches Toby Booth and Neal Hatley both moved to quell speculation that Ford was heading to The Rec a fortnight ago, insisting that he was keen to stay and fight for his place at Leicester.
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After Bath’s defeat at Wasps on January 6, Booth told the Daily Telegraph: “We are disappointed by the speculation out there.
“His father, Mike, should know and he hasn’t signed with us, he wants to stay at Leicester. And George is categoric about that. And that is direct from Mike.”
It is understood that Ford was offered a lucrative two-year deal by Leicester, who handed him his senior debut at the age of just 16 in 2009. Despite what Leicester see as their best efforts to keep him, Ford has now told the club that he sees his future elsewhere.
Ford has been keen to guarantee as much game time as possible in any future deal but, with Toby Flood under contract at Leicester until the summer of 2014, Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has told the young prodigy he must be playing better than his team-mate to earn a starting shirt in the big games.
With Flood on England duty during the autumn internationals and Six Nations, Ford would have been almost guaranteed to start between ten and 14 games a season had he agreed to stay at Welford Road next year.
Ford started 11 games last season and came off the bench four times. This year, he has already started nine games with another four appearances as a substitute.
He made a huge impact in 2011-12 and his application, game management and maturity was a leading light in the club's successful run to the LV= Cup final victory, which included a semi-final win over Bath at The Rec.
Ford also put in an excellent showing the Aviva Premiership semi-final win over Saracens at Welford Road when Flood was injured. But he has struggled at times this season and a series of bad days with the kicking boot could have cost Leicester dearly in a number of games they ended up winning by the skin of their teeth.
His goal-kicking percentage currently stands at 64 per cent.
As a result of Ford's decision, Kiwi Dan Bowden is expected to be handed the number ten shirt for the club’s upcoming LV= Cup fixtures.