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Peter Stringer's Tiny Jersey Played A Big Part In George Ford Being An Ireland Fan

Peter Stringer's Tiny Jersey Played A Big Part In George Ford Being An Ireland Fan
By Conor O'Leary
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I wanted Ireland to win.

That's not the words you'd expect to hear from someone getting ready to face Ireland in possibly the biggest test of his career. That it's from an English outhalf makes it all the more remarkable.

Remarkable is a good way to describe George Ford. The 21 year old got his chance for England after an injury to Owen Farrell, but nothing of his play so far would suggest that he intends to give up the spot when Farrell returns. His play masks his youth - it's as if he's been around the professional set up for years mixing it with those many years his senior. Which he has.

His dad, Mike, was a rugby league legend before he joined Eddie O'Sullivan's coaching team for Ireland in 2002. Ford Sr brought some rugby league nous to the defense coaching job and contributed to the start of Ireland's golden era. It was here that Ireland first got a glimpse of George Ford.

George Ford Ireland

Ronan O'Gara remembers him as "this little eight year old, chasing every one of our dead rugby balls like a buck". But eight year old George was learning all the time. David Humphries and Ronan O'Gara were nice enough to give the youngest Ford kicking lessons. It's clear that growing up around the professional environment has given Ford the confidence which shows in the composure he displays in the game.


Ford looked up to the likes of Paul O'Connell, Peter Stringer, Donncha O'Callaghan and Alan Quinlan. There's a story that Stringer took George and his brother Joe for ice creams. In fact, George had an Ireland jersey before he had an English one. That jersey came from the back of Peter Stringer in the aftermath of an Ireland game at Twickenham. It was strange then that Stringer's move to Bath reunited the pair.

Speaking to The Irish Independent, Ford said:


When Ireland played England at Twickenham, I forget what year, my Dad brought me into the Ireland changing room after the game. Peter was playing 9, he came over and gave me his 9 shirt. I was still young but it fitted me anyway because he was that small! I still have that shirt now. I remind him about that all the time. He just laughs. He's a brilliant guy, Strings. He says it is the weirdest thing now being in the same half-back pairing as me.

Growing up, he says, it was wanting the best for his Dad that lead him to cheer for Ireland. He admit that there were mixed feelings whenever England lined up against Ireland.

I wanted Ireland to win. Though it was a bit different when they were playing England.

You get the impression that he won't be so torn this weekend, and he may not be as overawed by the experience as some previous English outhalves.

See Also: "Where's Your Dad?" England's George Ford Meets A Brilliantly Blunt Autograph Hunter

Photo Credit Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

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