Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson has lauded George Ford after the England fly-half returned to club duty with a fine performance against Bristol.
Ford kicked seven points in Saturday’s 27-13 win and was excellent with the ball in hand as he pulled the strings in a four-try bonus-point victory on the road.
“George looked silky in attack, really silky,” said the boss after the away win.
“That is the part of our game we have been looking to grow and the part of his game he wants to prove he is one of the best at and not just landing drop goals from 50 metres. He can do it all, can’t he?
“It was his call to get back in and play so quickly after the World Cup and he actually looks better than last season. He has come back with a bit more zip in his step, really attacking the line well.
“But I was most impressed by the physical battle out there, and the fact that we won most of the collisions is pleasing and makes everything easier.
“They were knocking on the door in the last quarter and it was pleasing the way our bench stuck in there. We probably worked harder than we have ever worked.”
The win moves Sale one point behind top spot in the Premiership on Saturday night, with four wins from five games, an impressive return from Sanderson’s men.
That is in stark contrast for Bristol, who have just two wins in their opening five matches, with boss Pat Lam disappointed in how they could not contain Ford.
“George is a class player. We all saw that at the World Cup. He makes a big difference to them, but collectively as a team, they are a good side,” praised Lam.
“They have a clear way they want to play, they want to impose themselves on you, take your time and space away and I felt we didn’t react well to that today.
“We spoke about making short passes and we were making long passes and sometimes you just have to take them. We didn’t adjust too well and panicked under the pressure we were under.
“We know what they are going to bring, and unfortunately, we just made too many turnovers at key moments.
“We just panicked and threw the ball around too much. We just needed to relax and build pressure. We talked about that at half-time and trying to create scoreboard pressure.
“I keep saying it, but we are not far off. It is fine margins at this level of rugby, and little mistakes can have big consequences.”