England v Japan: George Ford determined to spark England attack

George Ford celebrates landing a drop goal against Argentina
Ford was awarded the player of the match award after landing three drop-goals as part of a pivotal performance against Argentina

Rugby World Cup: Pool D - England v Japan

Venue: Stade de Nice Date: Sunday, 17 September Kick-off: 20:00 BST

Coverage: Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and online; follow text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Fly-half George Ford has challenged England to attack without fear or inhibition against Japan in their Rugby World Cup pool game on Sunday.

England beat Argentina 27-10 in their tournament opener last weekend, with all the points coming from Ford's boot.

"There is more to come, that was the niggling thought after that game," Ford told Rugby Union Daily.

"[We have to] want the ball, get the ball in space and make things happen, and not wait for the perfect picture."

England have averaged fewer than two tries a game this year, scoring 18 in 10 matches.

Their ambitions with ball in hand against the Pumas were undermined by flanker Tom Curry's third-minute red card, but Ford believes the time invested in sharpening their attack should start paying dividends against Japan.

"We have worked pretty hard on attack this pre-season and particularly since we got here to France and we are looking forward to hopefully showing that," Ford added.

"If you wait for the perfect picture you will be waiting all day long, you have to back yourself, you have to want the ball.

"If it is a two-on-two or a three-on-three, get the ball and make something happen.

"We want to always have the mindset to get back into shape, run and score tries. Our intent is always to make a difference with ball in hand first."

With captain Owen Farrell serving the final match of his four-game ban following a red card against Wales in August, Ford is again the chief playmaker in England's backline.

However, he rejected the suggestion that Farrell's absence frees him to manage the game to his own instincts.

"Not at all," said Ford. "The amount of games I have played with Owen at this level - I have loved every single second of it.

"The influence he has on the team, even now when he is not playing or when he is at 10 or 12 is absolutely enormous.

"He is the captain of our team, he leads with his actions.

"You should see him in training - nothing has changed because he isn't involved at the weekend, he has been driving things as he normally would."

Owen Farrell and George Ford playing for England under-18
Owen Farrell and George Ford, seen here playing for England under-18s in 2009, are childhood friends

Ford and Farrell were England's first-choice fly-half and inside centre combination for the last Rugby World Cup campaign, but their partnership was disbanded after the 2021 Six Nations as then-coach Eddie Jones brought in Harlequins' Marcus Smith at 10.

Ford ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing for Leicester in the 2022 Premiership final, delaying his start to life at new club Sale Sharks and putting his Test career on hold.

However he made his first England start in two and a half years in the warm-up match against Ireland on 19 August and will carry the responsibility for unlocking a Brave Blossoms defence masterminded by former England defence coach John Mitchell.

"They will have a lot of numbers in the line, with probably a little wider spacing between them because they want to fill the field," he said.

"If you are waiting for a perfect picture of an overlap, you are probably going to look up and not see it too much this weekend but we can change the defensive picture by the way we attack.

"If we get our intent right on our lead lines and pull defenders in all of a sudden, what looks like a good spread of a defensive line can change quickly."

After the meeting with Japan, England's campaign will continue with pool-stage matches against Chile and Samoa and a potential quarter-final against opposition from Pool C, which contains Wales, Australia and Fiji.