George Ford: I won't choke against Wales
WALES v ENGLAND MILENNIUM STADIUM, TONIGHT LIVE RTE2/BBC1 (8.05)
By Duncan Bech
George Ford has warned Wales that he is not England's weak link as he steels himself for the onslaught he knows is coming at the Millennium Stadium.
The rookie Bath out-half has the vision to unlock Wales when the Six Nations opens in Cardiff tonight, but his light frame means doubt persists over his defence despite solid outings against Samoa and Australia in the autumn.
Lions centre Jamie Roberts will be the main battering ram directed at Ford, but roaming wings George North and Alex Cuthbert, as well as the home back row, are sure to test his courage.
As the likely focal point for the Welsh power game, the 21-year-old Ford is ready to roll up his sleeves to halt the heavy traffic coming down his channel.
"I know what's coming. It happens in most matches you play as a 10 - you get targeted," said Ford, who will be making only his third Test start.
"They look for you defensively and want you to make you tackles. It's something you expect and prepare for.
"They want you to make as many tackles as possible to take other aspects of your game away, whether that's your attack, kicking game or game management.
"I like that part of the game - I like the responsibility of making my tackles because I want to contribute in defence as well as attack."
Ford has been among of the beneficiaries of 'Hymns and Arias' being played at full volume over the loudspeakers during training at the squad's Pennyhill Park base in preparation for the noise and passion that await at the Millennium Stadium.
England have insisted on the roof not being closed, opting not to fall into line with the wishes of Wales in the hope of diluting the hostile atmosphere that will greet their attempt at making a triumphant start to the Six Nations.
Only eight of the matchday 23 have played in the Welsh capital before and Ford, who shoulders the goalkicking duties on his first visit to Cardiff, is grateful for the meticulous preparation.
"It was good training with the speakers on. They were obviously very loud, but it was definitely something we needed to do because of the atmosphere and noise that will be there on Friday night," he said.
"Communication will be massive so to practice under those conditions will definitely be worthwhile. I'm glad we did it.
"I'm excited about this game, about playing in front of a passionate Welsh crowd. I'll enjoy it and embrace it. We'll try to quieten them as much as we can.
"I haven't really thought about the goalkicking aspect. Either way, you've still got to kick and go through your pre-shot routine.
"You've still got to get the ball through the posts so whether it's loud or quiet, it shouldn't really affect you anyway.
"If it's like that you've got to get on with it. It doesn't really make it easier or harder if it's noisy anyway because you're in your own little bubble, concentrating on the kick."
Ford will be looking to unleash Bath team-mate Jonathan Joseph on Wales with England boldly opting for the in-form but inexperienced outside centre to partner Luther Burrell in midfield.
"Jonathan has been world-class in attack and his defence has been brilliant as well."