Ford planing to take Toulon to 'next level'

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:58
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Mike Ford vowed to bring the excitement back to Toulon after being unveiled as the three-time European champions' backs coach on Monday.

The former Bath head coach said he would take the mis-firing giants to the "next level" as they attempt to regain the French and European titles.

"First of all, it's the biggest club in Europe and they've been the most successful of the last four or five years," said Ford, 50.

"So the challenge is an exciting one, to work with a great group of coaches and some world class players - as a coach, that's all you can ask for."

Toulon had a poor start to the new Top 14 season but earned a morale-boosting 23-21 win over then-unbeaten Clermont on Sunday that moved them up to fifth.

The club's outspoken President Mourad Boudjellal said following that success that he may quit the club due to press criticism but he has nonetheless moved to boost his coaching resources.

"Mourad rang me up two weeks ago to discuss and talk rugby. He obviously liked the way Bath played," said Ford.

"Initially it was just a conversation about how the game should be played and how does he like to see the game played.

"Mourad said to me he wants to see an exciting brand of rugby, he wants to win but also he wants to score tries, and he believes I can add to that."

Ford insisted he has been brought in to work with, rather than replace, under-fire head coach Diego Dominguez.

"Me and Diego have talked several times, he's the boss, I'm here to help. 

"My skill set is coaching on the field, so I will help with attack, defence and the backs.

"There's a lot of good things in place already here structure-wise and over the coming weeks I'll just tweak things to hopefully take the team to the next level."

Ford believes Toulon have everything they need to be successful again having won three straight European titles from 2013-2015.

They also reached the Top 14 Final in each of those seasons, although won it only once in 2014.

"It's a fantastic squad, I've coached internationally against many of them so I know Matthew Giteau, Ma'a Nonu very well, Leigh Halfpenny, [Juan Fernandez] Lobbe. When we were at Bath we tried to sign Duane Vermeulen, so there's a lot of players I know personally and in all the squad there's a lot of talent."

Ford will also link up with Toulon's kicking coach Jonny Wilkinson again. Ford was an England assistant coach when Wilkinson was at the height of his playing powers.

"Me and Jonny have a good relationship and we spoke several times about Toulon - he said it was a perfect place for me to go as a coach," added Ford.

His main aim, though, will be to get the team scoring tries - they've managed only 11 in six matches this season.

"I was an international defence coach for 10 years and all you ever do as defence coach is watch other people's attack, so over the 10 years I became pretty comfortable with the sort of attack that's difficult for defences," said Ford.

"So when I went to Bath I just turned that around and implemented an attack structure that I knew from my defensive days was very difficult to defend."

If he can manage that, Boudjellal may abandon all talk of quitting the game.

The club host third-placed Montpellier on Sunday while they begin their European Champions Cup campaign at home to title-holders Saracens on October 15.

Agence France-Presse