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World class George Ford tipped to drive era of success

George FordBath head coach Tabai Matson reckons fly-half George Ford is as good as any player he has worked with – including Kiwi superstar Dan Carter.

During five years at crack Super Rugby outfit Crusaders, Matson managed a host of influential All Blacks such as Carter, Israel Dagg, Andrew Ellis and Colin Slade.

However, he says Ford could top the lot and is tipping the 23-year-old England fly-half to help Bath snap an unfathomable eight-year trophy drought.

Matson told The Rugby Paper: “I’ve coached a number of unbelievable backs in my time but George Ford is right up there with his diligence to the process.

“His work ethic and his down-to-earth manner is as good as I’ve ever seen and his performance at Northampton last weekend was truly world-class.

“Along with Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph, Ford’s a top, top player and you can see him carrying this club forward to many successes.

“As an attack and backs coach, my eyes pop out of my head when I think of what guys like Ford, Watson, Joseph and Jeff Williams can achieve.”

Since their 1998 Heineken Cup triumph, underachieving Bath have collected just one piece of major silverware – the European Challenge Cup in 2008.

Matson demands a change of mindset, explaining: “One thing (rugby director) Todd Blackadder and I will be driving is that every year you expect to be in a final.

“That’s what we’ve been used to and the while the rugby programme here is very solid, it’s now about moving mindsets to what we can achieve.”

Lock forward Dave Attwood will be sore at missing out on England’s most recent selection, but Matson believes that spells good news for Bath.

He said: “If Dave feels he has something to prove it’ll be great for us and, aside from our backs, I’ve been really impressed with our tight-five.

“If you’re looking at playing an attacking form of football your biggest challenge is your big boys up front and that’s been amazing for us so far.

“At Northampton they were fantastic at fronting up and smashing people. There are bloody good leaders and, hopefully, Dave will keep leading from the front.

“One of the things you want to do as a club is promote people to reach the next level and if Dave is throwing himself into the mix, I hope we can help.”

Matson says he and Blackadder will spend the first four rounds of Premiership action assessing the squad, after which they may look to make changes.

Bath look light on midfield numbers, with Matson acknowledging: “We are looking to strengthen our depth there, but that’s more about covering injuries.

One thing I’ve been mindful of is doing a really thorough stock-take of where everyone’s at and how the game is played here before considering change.

“If it’s not broke don’t fix it and you can’t confuse change with progress, but after four Premiership matches we’ll get a good idea of where our game can go.”

Matson is relishing the opportunity to work in England, believing the Premiership to be more akin to Test rugby than its Southern Hemisphere equivalent.

He added: “At times I feel the Premiership is closer to Test match rugby than Super Rugby and coming here is something I’ve always wanted to do.

“Bath’s a well renowned club with really good structures and with Toddy coming as DoR, it’s rare to go with someone you know and trust to a club that’s pretty aspirational.

“We feel good about where we’re sitting, which is exciting for the future.”

NEALE HARVEY

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