Stuart Barnes backs England's Toby Flood omission and George Ford call-up
Last Updated: 10/01/14 9:27am
Stuart Lancaster was right to include George Ford in his Elite Player Squad at the expense of Toby Flood, says Stuart Barnes.
Fly-half Flood has won 60 caps for his country and played in the 2007 World Cup final, however, with the 28-year-old set for a summer switch to Toulouse, England head coach Lancaster has turned his attentions to 20-year-old Bath ace Ford.
"Ford's got great vision, he's got great maturity and, in this generation of England players, he reads the game of rugby better than anyone."
Barnes reckons Flood's omission spells the end of his international career but backed the decision to focus on the future, with the 2015 World Cup approaching.
"England are determined to try and keep their players based in England," Barnes told Sky Sports News.
"With Flood set to go to France next season and a World Cup year coming up, it makes sense that Lancaster decides Flood has played his last game for England.
"He has been a good servant to the country but I think the time has come for England to start looking keenly towards the World Cup.
"Lancaster has made that decision, Flood goes, and George Ford, whose form has been very good for Bath, comes in."
The Tigers' pivot has made over 100 appearances for the club and scored over 1250 points, however, Barnes refused to criticise Flood's call to continue his career in France.
"Flood has got a lot of England caps and he has to cash in at some stage," said the Sky Sports pundit.
"He's cashing in now and he's going to Toulouse and thinking it's a chance to do something different.
"If you have been as long at Leicester as that man has, you can do nothing but say good luck to him."
Barnes, meanwhile, is excited by the prospect of Flood's replacement.
Fly-half Ford honed his skills with Leicester and caught the eye as he progressed through the England youth teams.
The 2011 IRB Junior World Player of the Year moved to Bath last summer and Barnes reckons Ford has the potential to become a top player for both The Recreation Ground outfit and the national team.
"Ford is one of the greatest England age-group players ever," he said. "England had a winning record when he was fly-half that was second to none.
"What was interesting was Ford was the 10 and the guy outside him was one Owen Farrell, playing at 12.
"Ford's got great vision, he's got great maturity and, in this generation of England players, he reads the game of rugby better than anyone.
"Whether he has the physical capacity and mental strength to challenge Farrell, that's another question - but this young man has all the talent you need."