Rugby World Cup: David Beckham’s 2002 World Cup penalty against Argentina inspired England fly-half George Ford

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GEORGE FORD is ready to bend it like Beckham after watching YouTube videos for inspiration.

Fly-half Ford is back in the No 10 shirt to kick off England’s World Cup bid against Tonga at the futuristic Sapporo Dome.

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The incredible indoor stadium was the scene of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Three Lions’ win over arch rivals Argentina at the 2002 World Cup.

Back then, Michael Owen was fouled by Mauricio Pochettino and Golden Balls David Beckham stepped up to smash home a penalty — four years after he was infamously sent off against the Argies at France 98.

Leicester star Ford, 26, revealed: “I searched for that earlier in the week.

“Someone said England played here in 2002 — I was nine, I think. I didn’t remember watching it but, looking back, I remember it now.

“I think they were wearing red that day and Beckham scored the penalty, so that’s pretty cool knowing they played there. I think Eddie Jones mentioned earlier that that was the loudest atmosphere when they played here, so it is one to look forward to.”

The sold-out Dome should be a cauldron for England’s Pool C opener tomorrow.

The state-of-the-art arena is the home of baseball’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

To get ready for rugby, the pitch had to be wheeled in from outside, with the stands twisting to accommodate the retractable grass surface.

After visiting the ground for the first time, Ford said: “What a brilliant place to go and play.

“The pitch is unbelievable. And the stands are very steep, so I would expect the atmosphere to be pretty special. “There’s not much wind so there’s no excuses for us kickers. But it’s brilliant.

“For a game of rugby where both teams would want to attack and score some tries — we want to defend well, of course we do — but it’s going to be perfect conditions for that.”

Owen Farrell, left, and George Ford are both key creative sparks for England
Reuters

England have played Tonga just twice and never lost.

They were handed a scare at the 2007 World Cup when they struggled past them but with the resources and talent they have on the pitch, Jones’ side have to start with a big win.

England spent eight nights training in tropical Miyazaki before flying north to Hokkaido island on Wednesday, where they put the finishing touches to their prep.

Ford said: “We’re unbelievably excited, really. We’ve had a great period of time together preparing.

“The whole camp’s been an exciting and challenging time but, obviously, you’re building up to a certain point, which is that first game and now it’s here.

“There’s genuine excitement in the squad. It’s through the roof. We can’t wait to get out there.”

Four years ago, Ford went into a home World Cup with the chatter of him and best mate Owen Farrell fighting it out for the No 10 shirt against Fiji.

Ford added: “I didn’t find it a pain in the a**e or a distraction.

“The coaches select the team, it is totally out of a player’s control.

“All you can do as a player is try to get better every day, prepare as well as you can.

“But I think the difference for this squad is — and I genuinely mean it and you might laugh — but it genuinely doesn’t matter who starts and who finishes.

“Of course you want to be out on the field. This is a squad of 31 where you can pick anyone to play and everyone will be pulling in the same direction and that is crucial.

“We play Sunday, a massive first game and then we’ll look beyond that.

“That is the main feeling I am getting from this — on who’s starting and who’s finishing — the coaches select the team and everyone is pulling in the same direction.”



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