George Ford bench call surprises Matt Toomua

Date published: October 17 2019

Australia fly-half Matt Toomua has revealed he was a little surprised to see England drop playmaker George Ford from their team ahead of Saturday.

Toomua’s former Leicester team-mate is shifted to bench duty for the World Cup quarter-final clash as Owen Farrell moves in to number 10.

Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade will wear shirts 12 and 13 respectively and when asked about the decision, Toomua admitted it was a shock.

“A little bit, yeah,” he told Press Association Sport ahead of the game in Oita.

“Both teams have decided to have the Leicester 10s come on in the second-half, but yeah, a little bit (surprised).

“He has been brilliant the last couple of years. But teams nowadays really are using that 23 (match-day squad) mentality, particularly at the World Cup.

“We just spoke about it before in terms of the finishers, and the role they play. You are probably talking 20 or 30 minutes now, which is a good chunk of the game, and the game is often in the balance at that time.

“You can assume that George will come on and pick the pace.

“Go back to 2016, I think George started off the bench in Brisbane (against Australia), and when he came on it completely changed. I think that was after 30 minutes.

“They have the ability to play quite a few ways and I am sure George coming off the bench will lift the pace.”

Toomua was in good spirits on Thursday and jokingly lifted the lid on his time at Leicester and being around so many of the current England squad.

“I know all their weaknesses, luckily, and I have been telling everyone,” he added, tongue-in-cheek. “I will list them now for you if you want.

“Manu (Tuilagi) is a terrible snooker player, George Ford never pays for a beer, Ben Youngs isn’t even the best rugby player in his family, let alone the country. The chicken, Jonny May – very weird – and Dan Cole doesn’t have a personality.

“No, look, we obviously had a very good relationship with a lot of the fellas there, and one thing I do know is that they are all quality players.

“Anyone like him (Tuilagi) you have to shut down time and space, obviously. But as I said, you can’t focus too much.

“A guy like Henry Slade, I can’t see a weakness in his game. He is a strong runner, passer, kicker and he has the left foot as well.

“Obviously, Manu is a name that sticks out for a lot of reasons. He is a strong carrier and makes a lot of big plays.

“But it is probably trying to shut down his time and space. He is at 12 now, so he is a bit closer to the play so it might be a little easier in that sense.

“However, I am sure they are working out ways to give him some ball one-on-one at full steam.”