Kyle Eastmond believes George Ford is yet to reach his peak in England’s No.10 shirt – and expects his Leicester colleague to prove it in the Six Nations.
Eastmond has seen Ford grow as a leader during five seasons together at Bath and Tigers and, at 26, believes he is maturing into an influential player England can build their next World Cup campaign around after the disappointment of the Japan final.
Ford insisted last week that there will be no hangover from England’s World Cup defeat to South Africa, telling Sky Sports: “We are going to build on what happened at the World Cup and we are going to get better. That has to be the mindset.”
Eastmond backs Ford in his bullish approach. He told The Rugby Paper: “George is always going to be a very important player, whether he’s playing for England or Leicester, and he’s going to have a big Six Nations and he’ll be important for that team.
“He’s been a big part of it for a number of years now and he’s been playing well for us since he came back from Japan, so I’d like him to take that into the Six Nations now and do really well.”
Eastmond added: “He’s still very young and I’ve seen him develop since he was 20 into a real leader. He’s confident with his messages and the way he prepares himself and the team, and he’s one of the best players in the world in his position now.
“He’ll tell you he’s still got things to work on but that’s what he does every day and he’s still only 26 with 65 caps to his name. There’s no reason why he can’t build on that and it’s ridiculous to think how good he can become in future.”
With Ford having recently extended his Leicester contract and the Tigers showing signs of a revival after a run of unbeaten matches, Eastmond said: “George re-signing was big for the club and it’s always good to see that from one of your teammates.
“It’s a big boost because we know what we’re trying to achieve here. Initially this season was a bit slow but, hopefully, we can accelerate things now.”
Leicester’s improved Premiership form – they drew with Harlequins at Twickenham before defeating high-flying Bristol – coincided with Eastmond’s return from a calf injury and the centre is committed to achieving success at Welford Road.
Despite constant rumours of a return to Rugby League, he said: “I’m happy where I am and I won’t be going back to Rugby League.
“We’ve got work to do here, I’m contracted beyond this season and I’m hoping to be a big part of what we do.
“I had a good pre-season but was unfortunate to pick up a little calf injury, so to get back at Twickenham boosted me and since then I’ve managed to put in a couple of decent performances and feel I’m getting back towards my best.
“We didn’t get results earlier in the season but Bristol was a big win for us and if we can keep building on what we’ve done over the last month, you look at the players we’ve got and there’s no reason why we can’t have a very good season still.”
Tigers resume their Premiership campaign at Eastmond’s old club this Saturday and he added: “I’ve not played at Bath since I left (in 2016) so I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s a big game and it always used to blow my mind a bit over how big it is because the clubs are not even close together, but it was always a huge occasion when I played for Bath against Leicester and I’m sure this will be no different.”