Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill praises George Ford despite an "off day" against Northampton
Last Updated: 03/11/12 8:14pm
George Ford: Endured an off day with the boot against Saints
Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill insisted fans should be patient with teenager George Ford after an "off day with the boot" in their 16-12 win over Northampton.
The highly-rated 19-year-old missed a host of kickable penalties but showed some glimpses of the skills that have led to many touting him as an England fly-half in waiting.
Cockerill has been criticised for not giving the youngster more game time but the Tigers director of rugby says Ford, who stood in for Toby Flood against Saints, should be given space to continue his development.
"George is a very good player," said Cockerill. "Today, he had an off day with the boot, but he did some very good things with ball in hand.
"He will learn from it. He has had some pretty good days as well - in a semi-final and a final last season - and that is part and parcel of young people developing.
"I will put my arm around him and encourage him, and we will carry on. People want him to play all the time or go somewhere else to play, but we have to develop George and look after him.
"He will play enough rugby here along with Toby Flood. If you want to play for England, play here in front of Toby and then you will be in the England team."
Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder was frustrated with Saints' third successive Premiership defeat but praised flanker Calum Clark after his first appearance since completing a 32-week ban.
He said: "I thought Calum was outstanding. To come back and play 80 minutes when you have been out for so long in such an intensive game as that was very good.
"We have got no doubt with Calum about where he is. He is one of our leaders, and we have missed him."