George Ford’s influence strong despite his absence from England’s summer tour

George Ford may have been ruled out of England’s summer tour but Sale’s veteran playmaker still wields a strong influence on some of those present in Japan and New Zealand.

Sharks duo Joe Carpenter and Tom Roebuck are locked in a friendly rivalry to see who is capped first by Steve Borthwick, with next Saturday’s Test in Tokyo the first opportunity to make their debuts.

Carpenter and Roebuck were called up by boss Borthwick after excelling in a potent Sale back three last season and have benefited from the expertise of 31-year-old fly-half Ford, who was ruled out of the tour by a damaged Achilles.

George Ford (left) has helped develop Joe Carpenter's game
George Ford (left) has helped develop Joe Carpenter’s game (Ben Whitley/PA)

“George is the ultimate professional. He drives standards and he drives execution,” Carpenter said.

“He’s been in the England environment for so long and him coming to Sale has been huge for a lot of us, helping us understand what level we need to be at to bridge that gap between Sale and England.

“He’s fantastic in terms of trying to pull us up with him. He wants to win, that’s his mindset, and he wants the best possible for the boys who he thinks have potential.”

If the Sale rookies who fulfil Borthwick’s back three requirement of being dominant in the air while providing a counter-attack threat are capped over the coming weeks, it will also come with a nod of appreciation for each other.

Joe Carpenter is aiming to win his first cap on England's summer tour
Joe Carpenter is aiming to win his first cap on England’s summer tour (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Now close friends, Roebuck said they “used to hate each other” as teenagers when his Cheshire or Sale academy side played Carpenter’s Yorkshire or Yorkshire academy, adding that his rival was a “gobby b*****d”.

It was not until they got to know each other in England age grade camps that they built up a rapport, eventually living as housemates in Manchester.

“On the flip-side, he was (a gobby b*****d) as well!” said the 22-year-old Carpenter, who is seven months younger.

“That was where it all started but that’s like anything in rugby – you hate your opponent until you actually end up meeting them and then, 95 per cent of the time, they’re a nice guy.

“Tom is one of my best friends and has been for the last five years since I joined Sale. I was dead happy for him when he was called into England camp during the Six Nations. He was unfortunate not to be capped but that was the first step for him.

“There’s a bit of in-house competition for us and he managed to get in first, which I was dead chuffed about – I loved that it happened for him. But for me, it was about how I could make that step as well.

“This is our first tour together and hopefully there are many in the future. We’re both really excited.”