Ford named IRB Junior Player of Year
October 24, 2011
George Ford helped England under-20 to a Six Nations Grand Slam and final of the Junior World Championships © Getty Images
Fly-half George Ford dedicated his International Rugby Board Junior Player of the Year award to the entire England under-20 squad after becoming the first Englishman to win the accolade.
The 18-year-old went one better than previous English nominees Joe Simpson and Carl Fearns when he was presented the award at a ceremony at Vector Arena in Auckland on Monday. It capped a terrific year for the Leicester Tigers youngster who helped guide England to a Grand Slam in the Six Nations tournament and to the final of the World Junior Championships in Italy, where they lost 33-22 to New Zealand.
Ford beat off competition Baby Blacks duo Sam Cane and Luke Whitelock before paying tribute to his England team-mates.
"It's a massive honour especially when you consider the calibre of player who have won it in the past as well as the others (Cane and Whitelock) nominated," Ford said. "I couldn't believe it when I found out to be honest, but I've got to be quick to point out that rugby is not an individual sport. All of the lads were awesome throughout the whole campaign and I'd like to think that I'm picking the award up on behalf of them.
"Winning the Grand Slam in Ireland was a massive highlight. To remain unbeaten against the calibre of sides we played against took some doing, but we performed well each time we took to the field. Getting to the final of the Junior World Championship was also a great achievement, and it's just a shame that we fell just short against a strong New Zealand side.
"I really am just taking it each game as it comes, my focus is on Leicester at the moment and will switch to England during the U20 6 Nations, but there are a fair few established names that have won the award in the past and it's a massive honour to be part of them now."
England under-20 head coach Rob Hunter added: "George's influence on the pitch and off it was enormous; he works extremely hard to maintain his high levels of performance and is a pleasure to work with as a coach. He's a key player and we're looking forward to having him back in the U20s for the Six Nations and the Junior World Championship."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September