Bell ready for battle with friendly foe Joe
HOT shots Tommy Bell and Joe Ford used to battle it out in training but there will be much more at stake over the next two weeks with the winner of the duel between the league’s two best kickers likely to decide who will be promoted to the Premiership.
Bell ended the season with 193 points as London Irish secured top spot, with Ford on 192 and Yorkshire Carnegie in second.
The pair, part of the same Carnegie team in 2012, played prominent roles in the semi-final wins over Doncaster and Ealing respectively, with Bell adding 19 points to his tally and Ford contributing 32.
Irish travel to Headingley on Wednesday for the first leg of the final and Bell is hoping the Exiles will work out a way to stop his old mate.
“We’ve had few kicking battles with Joe before,” he said. “He was at fly-half and I was at full-back when we played together at Leeds and we often challenged each other in training to decide who would kick at the weekend.
“He’s a great kicker and a great leader so I’m sure he’ll lead Yorkshire well around the pitch. Hopefully we’ll have the tactics in place to combat that. “We know these two games are not like any other but we’re trying our best to keep things the same in our preparation. We’ve just got to stick at it and hope it’ll get us over the line. “We stuck to our structure really well against Doncaster, winning the kicking battle and the forwards did really well up front to disrupt their maul. “Carnegie will probably pose a bit more threat out wide so our forwards will have to be even better to stop their momentum.
“We showed against Doncaster that if we can stop the opposition in the first two phases and get the momentum back it’s then very tough for them. Our defence has been strong recently so we’ll go up there to take it to them.”
Struggling to impose himself at Wasps and Leicester over the past four seasons, Bell, 24, decided to join Irish and he honoured his contract despite relegation from the Premiership.
He added: “I could have turned the move down because of the relegation but seeing how good the environment was at Irish it wasn’t much of a risk.
“Playing in the Championship might look like a step down but everything we do here, the standards we set in training is like at any Premiership club.
“I’ve really enjoyed this season. As the kicker I was given a lot of opportunity to practice during games as we scored a lot of tries.
“All our focus is on the final but it’s hard not to have a cheeky look forward and think about the Premiership.
“That’s where I want to play and that’s where I really want to kick on from a personal point of view. I developed just as much this year as I did at Wasps or Leicester simply because of the amount of game time I’ve had here.”
Friendly rivalry: Tommy Bell