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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 04:06 GMT 05:06 UK
Ford aims to revive England hopes
By Phil Harlow

New England defence coach Mike Ford
We've got the talent and the skills to be genuine contenders at the World Cup
England defence coach Mike Ford
Mike Ford has vowed to turn England's fortunes around after his appointment as the team's new defence coach.

The world champions are languishing in sixth place in the IRB world rankings, but Ford plans to get their 2007 World Cup defence back on track.

"My aim is to turn England into the best defensive team in the world," the former Saracens coach told BBC Sport.

"I'm very proud. I coached Ireland and loved it, but there's nothing like coaching your own country."

After two consecutive fourth-place finishes in the Six Nations, England's new-look coaching regime is under intense pressure to make swift improvements.

"I do think I can help turn things around for England," said Ford.

"Although the results haven't shown it recently, the players England have at their disposal are very, very good players.

"It's a case of managing the players and creating the right environment for them to perform.

"Hopefully, the England management team can create that environment - if they do, then we've got the talent and the skills to be genuine contenders at the World Cup."

MIKE FORD FACTFILE
Born: 18 November 1965
Position: Scrum-half
Career highlights: Challenge Cup winner 1985; 10 Great Britain caps
Coaching career: Oldham (RL) 1999-2001; Ireland defence coach 2002-05; Saracens defence coach 2004-05; Saracens head coach 2005-06; British & Irish Lions defence coach 2005; England defence coach 2006-

England had to compete with Six Nations rivals Wales for Ford's services.

"I was very flattered that Wales were interested in me," said Ford.

"I was approached by them but once England came in, it's pretty tough to turn your country down.

"It's nothing to do with money - I'm actually on less money with England than Wales offered."

Ford also revealed that his departure from Saracens was partly caused by his unhappiness with the club's plans for a new coaching structure, following the arrival of Alan Gaffney as director of rugby.

The 40-year-old stepped up to head coach at the start of last season after previously working as defence coach.

"I was already talking with Saracens about changes to the coaching structure previous to England's approach," he said.

Mike Ford (in red) on last year's Lions tour of New Zealand
Ford's coaching on the Lions tour was said to be popular with the players

"Saracens didn't want a head coach any more and wanted me to go back to a defence coach job. I had a problem with that."

Phil Larder, Ford's predecessor as England defence coach, employed a drift defence system, while several Premiership clubs have preferred to use the "blitz" approach.

But Ford said he wanted England to be able to vary their defensive style in the same way teams vary their modes of attack.

"The best system is a mixture of the two," said Ford, who cited Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Worsley and Josh Lewsey as examples of top-class England defensive players.

"If we want to do well in the Six Nations and the World Cup next year then you can't have the opposition looking at your defence and being able to say 'England do this every time'.

"There's some smart coaches and they'll come up with plays so you've got to keep the opposition guessing."



SEE ALSO
Ford & Wells join England set-up
23 May 06 |  Internationals
Ford focused on defence
23 May 06 |  Internationals
Trio sacked in England shake-up
27 Apr 06 |  Internationals
England coaching troubles Edwards
28 Mar 06 |  Internationals
Ford has Ireland on the defensive
27 Mar 03 |  Northern Ireland


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