Yorkshire Carnegie fly half Joe Ford believes this Saturday’s top of the table clash with London Irish will bring the best out of Bryan Redpath’s side.
A single bonus point separates the two sides are seven rounds of the Greene King IPA Championship with newly relegated Irish top of the table.
Looking ahead to the game, the 26-year-old said, “I am really excited about taking on London Irish this week. They are top of the table by a point from us, both teams are unbeaten and things are set up nicely for a great game.
“We have spoken this week about how much we need to raise our game this week. If we continue to make the mistakes we have done in our games so far against Irish, they will punish us every time on Saturday. We have got a big focus on our defence this week, we probably won’t see the ball as much as we have done this season but when we get our opportunities hopefully we can show what we are capable of on attack,” added Ford.
Ford will be up against his former Carnegie team mate Tommy Bell this Saturday when it comes to the kicking duel and the Yorkshire player says he and his team mates are thoroughly aware of the danger posed by Bell. He added, “It will be a tight game and it could come down to kicks so I need to make sure personally that I am ready for that. They have got a top player in Tommy Bell, who we know well from his time with Carnegie. Tommy kicks so well and can kick goals from over 50 metres out, so we know our discipline needs to be good on Saturday. If we give him the shots at goal, we know he will kick them but the onus is on us not to give up those opportunities.”
Yorkshire bounced back from their first defeat of the season a fortnight ago at Ealing Trailfinders in the British & Irish Cup to gain a bonus point win over Jersey at Headingley Carnegie last Friday but Ford says they know they must find another gear this week to take on Irish. He added, “We want to get better with every game and London Irish is the next challenge for us. As long as we improve on last week’s performance against Jersey, we know we are moving forward but it will be good to test ourselves against the team top of the table.”
Ford returned to Yorkshire Carnegie this summer from Sale Sharks for his third spell at the club having originally broken through as a teenager back in 2009. He admits he is enjoying his new role at the club but has had to make changes to his preparations to play full matches again. He revealed, “I’m loving my rugby at the moment. I am playing eighty minutes every week and seeing plenty of the ball so things are going great. At Sale I was able to work a lot on my fitness and doing weights during the week whereas now the focus is more on playing for the full game come the weekend. Recovery is a huge part of that so I am eating a lot more and doing a lot more analysis. When you are starting at fly half you have to know the gameplan inside and out so it is very different but I am enjoying the challenge.
“The Championship has always been a really physical league but what has changed from my last spell in the league is the skill levels across all the teams. We have had some quick games, partly down to ourselves at times, but teams have been able to live with that. Every team we have played has been a real challenge,” added Ford.
London Irish’s big win over London Scottish saw the Exiles overtake Yorkshire as the top points scorers in the division however Ford says the talent at Carnegie in the backs remains confident they can produce more quality moments. He added, “The great thing about our backline is that there are players waiting for their chance who are of an equal standard to the guys who have the starting shirts that week. People like Tom Casson, Oli Goss and Taylor Prell are there ready to go when their chance comes and that pushes everyone on in training. We have got a really strong unit as backs and I am enjoying playing with them.
“We are looking to be a bit more aggressive coming off the line in defence and looking after our forwards a bit more. We need to play in the right areas of the field and we have been guilty of overplaying at times, which puts everyone under unnecessary pressure. If we can put the ball in the right areas it should be easier to defend,” said the fly half.
Ford is pleased to be working with Assistant Coach Jimmy Lowes once again after his return to the club this season. He added, “The biggest thing with Jimmy is the detail he puts into training. There is no second guessing of the message he is giving us, come the weekend we all know exactly the role we have to play. We have to justify ourselves to him if we don’t do that as well but we also know that if we do what he tells us, it will work and we have seen that with our attack so far.”