Ford set for debut from bench

Salisbury Journal: George Ford is set for his international debut against Ireland George Ford is set for his international debut against Ireland

George Ford is poised to make his Test debut in England's RBS 6 Nations showdown with Grand Slam-chasing Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Bath fly-half has been included in the matchday squad for the pivotal title clash as support for Owen Farrell, who is first choice in the position.

If the 20-year-old is brought on against Ireland he is unlikely to be seen until the final quarter, but head coach Stuart Lancaster deems him ready for his international baptism.

"We feel that the time is right to include George Ford in the matchday squad," Lancaster said.

"A full three weeks of training has allowed George the chance to really understand the way we are developing our game.

"This time has been crucial in order for him to feel confident and ready in a key decision-making and leadership position.

"We are a looking forward to see him develop over the next few months."

There is a lack of in proven alternatives at fly-half should British and Irish Lion Farrell suffer an injury and England are keen to increase their depth in the position.

Ford's strong form for Bath this season has seen him installed as the player most likely to offer cover up to and including the 2015 World Cup, although Freddie Burns of Gloucester remains in contention.

Centre Brad Barritt has been dropped from the 23 to make way for Ford, who left Leicester for Bath last summer.

"Brad is obviously disappointed to miss out, but he's still a key member of our squad," Lancaster said.

"I'm sure he'll get further opportunities in the future. He hasn't had much game time since his injury and will benefit from some time with Saracens over the next two weeks."

England's hopes of naming an unchanged starting XV against Ireland have been derailed by the bulging neck disc sustained by tighthead prop Dan Cole.

Cole saw a specialist for a second opinion on Tuesday evening and the results of the assessment are now being considered by the England and Leicester medical teams with an update expected on Thursday.

David Wilson will fill the void left by Cole's absence, despite having just returned from a calf injury, with Henry Thomas on the bench.

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