George Ford believes “deception” is the key to unlocking Manu Tuilag’s full potential when the former England and Leicester team-mates clash in Sale.
Ford is yet to make his debut for the club he joined in the summer after suffering an Achilles injury while leading the Tigers to victory in last season’s Gallagher Premiership final.
The 29-year-old fly-half could return to action by the end of December and has already drawn up a plan to bring out the best in marauding center Tuilagi.
While in the recent autumn series Tuilagi finally managed to win his 50th cap after a host of injury problems, he was not the most destructive in the England squad.
“Manu needs deception around him. He needs to get the ball when he’s not the only option to get the ball, but you need to have other people around him so you can create one-on-one plays for him,” Ford said.
“When you create a one-on-one game for Manu or half a shoulder for Manu, he’s pretty much impossible to deal with. It’s also about how we get Manu with time, space and those opportunities in the phase game, not just off the field.
“You can design the play out down the field, but you have to get Manu with the ball in his hands, if it’s a little more unstructured, if he can get the ball in the channel and have a one-on-one game. .
“Again, it’s a big cheat, it’s not just handing it to Manu and ‘come on, get the whole team on.'” It’s about the mindset and philosophy of your team.
While disappointed not to be able to make his Sharks debut, Ford has used the first major injury of his career to both build and sharpen Sale’s attack as an assistant coach.
“My mindset has been thinking I’m not injured. I know it sounds funny, but it’s been a possibility,” Ford said
“Since my debut at 16 or 17 – I’m 29 now – I’ve played rugby for 12 years and I’ve been lucky not to have had a long-term injury and maybe that’s the time I needed to refresh and come back .a better player.
“When you have an injury like that, you’re starting from scratch and you’re going back in terms of fundamentals, and when you’re week-to-week and season-to-season, you never have time to do that.”