Cor­bisiero hails ‘world class’ Mako Vu­nipola

Eng­land’s Ford rules out join­ing fa­ther at Toulon

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS - LON­DON: ‘CROSSES DI­VIDE’

Alex Cor­bisiero be­lieves Eng­land suc­ces­sor Mako Vu­nipola is now the “best loose­head prop in the world”.

Vu­nipola has been in fine form for English and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Sara­cens so far this sea­son, with his work at the set-piece-once a source of crit­i­cism-as well as in open play win­ning im­pres­sive re­views.

The in­jury-hit Corb­siero, who started a sab­bat­i­cal from rugby last year af­ter win­ning 20 Eng­land caps and two for the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions, was in no doubt of Vu­nipola’s all-round qual­ity. “In my opin­ion Mako is the best loose­head in the world and I will de­fend that view against any­one. He’s mov­ing into a class of his own,” Cor­bisiero said. “His set piece has be­come so con­sis­tent and it’s ever-im­prov­ing. He’s be­com­ing a dom­i­nant scrum­mager.

“Ev­ery­thing he does around the field is in­cred­i­ble - his work-rate, his de­fence, his turnovers, his car­ry­ing, off­loads, passes out the back.” Cor­bisiero, speak­ing at an event to launch the N-pro head guard, which aims to re­duce the risk of con­cus­sion, added: “He’s never in the wrong po­si­tion and is a great, in­tel­li­gent rugby player who makes the right de­ci­sions who can make an im­pact while cov­er­ing the ba­sics that a prop needs to do.”

Eng­land scrum coach Neal Hat­ley said the set-piece game of Vu­nipola, whose brother Billy is Sara­cens and Eng­land’s No 8, had come on leaps and bounds.

“Mako has been ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing for Sara­cens in the first half of the sea­son,” Hat­ley said. “There aren’t many props in world rugby that can do what he does with the ball in hand. “His set-piece has come on im­mea­sur­ably.

“Some­times peo­ple get pi­geon-holed as a car­ry­ing prop or a scrum­mag­ing prop and I think he crosses that di­vide. “He’s been very sound from a set-piece point of view. We’ve made a few lit­tle tech­ni­cal changes to his bind and that’s had a real pos­i­tive ef­fect.

“There are a lot of good play­ers around, but he’s def­i­nitely get­ting there in terms of be­ing the best loose­head in the world. If Corbs said that, it’s a pretty good en­dorse­ment.”

Eng­land open their end-of-year in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme against a strug­gling South Africa at Twick­en­ham on Satur­day, with the Spring­boks hav­ing lost five of their last nine Tests in­clud­ing a record 57-15 de­feat by world cham­pi­ons New Zealand in Dur­ban last month.

But for­mer Lon­don Ir­ish prop be­lieves South Africa, renowned for their phys­i­cal ap­proach to rugby union, will still pose for­mi­da­ble prob­lems up front for an Eng­land side look­ing to make it 10 wins out of 10 un­der Aus­tralian head coach Ed­die Jones.

“They will prob­a­bly go with a big pack and a big back five in the way they’ve tried to do for most of the year. It will be a good side,” Hat­ley said. “They have been a state of flux, but when they’ve played well they have been very im­pres­sive. The Lions did well in Su­per Rugby. We’re ex­pect­ing a good side to turn up.

“They have a very good scrum and will prob­a­bly load up on that back five. There will be big bulk there so it will be a test­ing day from a scrum point of view.” Both Eng­land and South Africa are due to name their teams to­day. — AFP

Eng­land fly-half Ge­orge Ford says there is no chance of him join­ing fa­ther Mike at French big-spenders Toulon. Mike Ford was ap­pointed head coach of the Top 14 side in place of for­mer Italy in­ter­na­tional Diego Dominguez in Oc­to­ber, af­ter ini­tially join­ing Toulon as backs coach.

He moved to France af­ter be­ing sacked as coach of English Premier­ship side Bath-the club Ge­orge still plays for-fol­low­ing a poor league sea­son that saw the west coun­try team fin­ish ninth in the 12-strong ta­ble. His ap­point­ment as head coach of Toulon sparked spec­u­la­tion that fa­ther and son could be re-united in France.

But that would mean Ge­orge hav­ing to ef­fec­tively give up his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer be­cause Eng­land do not se­lect over­seas­based play­ers for Test duty, ex­cept in “ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances”.

It is a pol­icy that pre-dates Ed­die Jones’s reign as Eng­land coach but one the Aus­tralian is de­ter­mined to up­hold.

“I don’t know what was go­ing on there last week to be hon­est,” Ford, speak­ing at Eng­land’s train­ing base on Tues­day, said of the spec­u­la­tion. “It was news to me, any­way,” added the 23-year-old ahead of Eng­land’s open­ing end-of-year in­ter­na­tional against South Africa at Twick­en­ham on Satur­day.

“Ob­vi­ously my dad’s there but I want to play for Eng­land so I want to play in Eng­land,” in­sisted Ford, who has ap­peared in 26 Tests. “Af­ter it all came out I had a quick chat with Ed­die and said, ‘I don’t know where all that’s come from’.”

Ford did not rule out play­ing over­seas at a much later stage in his ca­reer, say­ing: “I think it would be a great life ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing some­where like France.

“It is a dif­fer­ent way of play­ing and liv­ingyou’d prob­a­bly see the sun and the beach a lot more... I’ll see where I am in a few years’ time.” But right now Ford’s fo­cus in on help­ing Eng­land make it 10 wins out of 10 un­der Jones when they face the Spring­boks-a team they have not beaten since 2006.

This week­end’s clash is set to see Ford and child­hood friend Owen Far­rell con­tinue their twin play­maker part­ner­ship at fly-half and in­side cen­tre re­spec­tively.

A nig­gling in­jury that meant Far­rell could not kick side­lined him for six weeks at the start of the sea­son.

But his return saw the goal-kicker pro­duce a man-of-the-match dis­play as reign­ing English and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Sara­cens beat Toulon 33-21 on Oc­to­ber 15.

“I wasn’t sur­prised by Owen’s form,” said Ford. “He would have been on top of things con­stantly even if he was not train­ing to his full ca­pac­ity. He is ob­sessed with the game.”

Far­rell is one of three Eng­land play­ers on a six-strong short­list for World Rugby’s player of the year award, to­gether with Billy Vu­nipola and Maro Itoje — also two of his team-mates at Lon­don club Sara­cens. The win­ner will be an­nounced on Sun­day and Ford said: “There have been some out­stand­ing per­form­ers in the team and those three es­pe­cially. “Other play­ers could have made it as well.” — AFP

Ge­orge Ford

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