Aviva Premiership betting: Ford family are turning Bath into a Rolls Royce

George Ford - one of dad Mike's big success stories
George Ford - one of dad Mike's big success stories

Bath Rugby are the big-priced outsiders in the chase for the Aviva Premiership title but Ralph Ellis says the way they've improved under new management means they can't be ignored.

"That is the attitude Ford senior wants. “We need to start winning the big games against the big sides,” he said yesterday. “We have lost to Saracens twice this season and to Northampton, so we have to start beating major teams to prove to ourselves that we have the ability to progress.”"

When Bath Rugby's multi millionaire owner Bruce Craig ruthlessly sacked his director of rugby Gary Gold there were some heavyweight names linked with the job. Sir Clive Woodward was seen watching a game at the Recreation Ground; England's rugby league world cup coach Steve McNamara was said to be a contender.

Nearly six months on the position remains vacant. Mike Ford, who had been promoted to head coach in the summer, remains in overall charge. The football equivalent would be Manchester United talking about Louis Van Gaal and Carlo Ancelotti but then sticking with Ryan Giggs.

Now there are those at Old Trafford who think that might not be the worst idea and, if they want an example of how it can succeed to promote from within, they need only look at what Ford has achieved at Bath. At times the team have been purring like a luxury car, and his young side are in with a chance of a double of Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup, while Gavin Henson has turned his back on a flamboyant private life to restrict his extravagant flair to what he does with a rugby ball.

Bath face Northampton in the Premiership tomorrow night with a home semi-final place in the play-offs at stake, in what is also a dress rehearsal for the Amlin Challenge Cup final. I flagged them up as value when Gold got his marching orders. They were up to 25.024/1 to be outright winners then, and are down to 14.013/1 now.

Ford, a 48-year-old whose playing background was as a Rugby League legend before he switched codes for his coaching career, clearly understands that it is as much a psychological issue as a tactical one he must confront. Bath have crushed many of the smaller sides this season but have too often come up short against the big boys.

But he has the potential to do it. Henson's rehabilitation has given Ford the luxury of two top class fly-halves at his disposal, thanks to the way his son George has developed since moving from Leicester to the Recreation Ground. Working for your old man is not always the easiest - especially in sport when dad picks the team - but the pair of them have both flourished.

George, who turned 21 just two months ago, is pushing Owen Farrell in Stuart Lancaster's England plans and looks to have the same nerveless approach to big games which will help in what's to come.

That is the attitude Ford senior wants. "We need to start winning the big games against the big sides," he said yesterday. "We have lost to Saracens twice this season and to Northampton, so we have to start beating major teams to prove to ourselves that we have the ability to progress."

That is certainly what is wanted by the owner, who has poured his money into developing the club's training infrastructure and is pushing through plans to develop a bigger stadium. If he gets success on the field there is enough tradition to bring huge crowds - as shown by the numbers who are trying to get tickets to squeeze into Cardiff Arms Park for the Amlin Challenge Cup final. They could probably move next door and fill the Millenium Stadium.

Bath remain big outsiders for both competitions but a mixture of their ambition and Ford's growing authority means they can't be discounted, and at big prices are well worth a punt.

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