George Ford believes “deception” is the key to unlocking the full potential of Manu Tuilagi when the former England and Leicester teammates link up at Sale together.
Ford has yet to make his debut for the club he joined during the summer because of a ruptured Achilles injury sustained while guiding the Tigers to victory in last season’s Gallagher Premiership final.
The 29-year-old fly-half could be back in action by the end of December and has already devised a blueprint for inducing the best from marauding centre Tuilagi.
While Tuilagi was finally able to win his 50th cap in the recent autumn series following a host of injury problems, he was not at his most destructive in a misfiring England team.
“Manu needs deception around him. He needs to get the ball when he’s not the only option to get the ball, he needs to have other people around him so you can create a one-on-one for him,” Ford said.
“If you create a one-on-one for Manu, or half a shoulder for Manu, he’s impossible to tackle pretty much. Also, it’s about how we can get Manu with time, with space, and with those opportunities in phase play, not just off a set-piece.
“You can design a play off a set-piece but you need to get Manu with the ball in his hands when it is a little bit more unstructured, when he can get the ball in a channel and he’s got a one-on-one.
“Again, that’s a lot of deception, that’s not just giving it to Manu and ‘there you go, take the whole team on’. It’s about your team mindset and philosophy.”
While frustrated at being unable to make his Sharks debut, Ford has been using the first significant injury of his career to rebuild as well help sharpen Sale’s attack as an auxiliary coach.
“My mindset has been thinking I am not injured. I know that sounds a funny thing to say, but this has been an opportunity,” Ford said
“Since making my debut at 16 or 17 – I am 29 now – I have had 12 years of rugby and I have been lucky enough not to have had a long-term injury and maybe this is the time I needed to refresh and come back a better player.
“When you have got an injury like this you are starting from ground zero and building your way back again in terms of foundations and when you are week to week and season to season, you never have time to do that.”