Leicester target Bath George Ford to replace Owen Williams who will join Gloucester
Leicester are to clarify George Ford’s intentions as they look to line up a replacement for fly-half Owen Williams, who is joining Gloucester.
Ford moved to Bath from Leicester in 2013 to link up with his father, Mike, but Bath’s decision to sack Ford snr last May led to the fly-half triggering a clause that enables him to leave 12 months before the end of his contract in 2018.
Sale remain favourites to land him and even though it is believed that Bath will block a switch to a close Premiership rival such as Leicester, Aaron Mauger, the Tigers’ head coach, did not rule out a move.
“If George is available, he is potentially someone we could look at,” he said. “We haven’t spoken to him but he is a quality player. We want competition for places right across the board. We don’t want Freddie Burns sitting there on the throne thinking he has got it all sewn up. The competition for the No 10 shirt has drawn the best out of both Owen and Freddie over the last couple of years. Whoever does come in will be expected to be challenging for the No 1 spot.”
Leicester will be intent on a top-end signing. The club’s injury predicament, with Wallaby centre Matt Toomua and Manu Tuilagi both long-term casualties, reinforces the need for deep resources.
Four contract extensions were announced: locks Graham Kitchener and Dom Barrow, flanker Will Evans and centre Peter Betham.
Mauger made no effort to conceal his dismay at losing Williams, who arrived from the Scarlets in 2012. “We’re very disappointed that Owen has decided to leave, but that is the game,” Mauger said. “He has done a lot of wonderful things in a Tigers shirt and we are sad to see him go.”
The same sentiment was in the air at the Ospreys in Swansea over 20-year-old back-row forward Sam Underhill, who is to join Bath next season. The former England Under-18 captain, who has completed his degree studies at the University of Cardiff, was barred from possible England selection because he was playing outside the country. He could now be considered for the summer tour to Argentina.
James Haskell has been ruled out of Wasps’ Champions Cup game against Toulouse on Saturday with concussion but Joe Launchbury is in the frame after a calf problem. Centre Elliot Daly and hooker Tommy Taylor are also available after head knocks.
Harlequins have confirmed that Joe Marler will miss the start of the Six Nations after suffering a fracture in his lower leg. The loosehead prop will be sidelined for four to five weeks.