Ford’s fine all-round performance was the highlight of a 28-9 victory at Twickenham on Saturday that ended the five-match losing run that had built pressure on Stuart Lancaster’s men.
Making his full debut after four replacement appearances with Owen Farrell switching to inside centre, the 21-year-old kicked with intelligence and threatened the line to provide the cutting edge at fly-half England have been missing.
Just as impressive, however, was the resilience the smallest player on the pitch showed when targeted with several ferocious hits, most notably a high tackle from John Leota that earned the Samoa centre a yellow card.
“I didn’t feel too bad after that, which surprised me really. I just wanted to get back on my feet as quickly as possible,” said Ford.
“It was a good hit, but I didn’t think it was a yellow card. He read the play pretty well and fair deal, you just get on with it.
“Samoa are always going to be a little bit different because they are massive men who love the physicality battle.
“I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable to take those hits but you’ve got do it.”
Ford played a central role in two of England’s three tries, directing the move that created a hole for Jonny May to exploit before spiralling a pinpoint crossfield kick to Anthony Watson, whose subsequent step and offload sent Mike Brown over.
Australia share England’s pool at next year’s World Cup and will provide far more formidable opposition, but Ford’s accomplished shift in a first victory of the autumn – after losses to New Zealand and South Africa – indicates he is ready for the challenge.
“There were some aspects of the game that I was quite pleased with and some that I can definitely work on,” said Ford.
“You always want to play and start for England, but it’s up to the coaches to come up with a plan and come up with the team they think is best to beat Australia.
“Whether I’m involved in that or not, I’ll back it 100 per cent because it is going to be a massive squad effort next week to beat them.”
A trickier decision than whether to retain Ford now confronts Lancaster with Farrell’s place under threat from genuine inside centres Billy Twelvetrees and Kyle Eastmond.
Farrell, Ford’s school friend and England age-group team-mate, was marginally better after disappointing against New Zealand and South Africa, but was still the source of a few glaring errors, most notably falling off a tackle and an aimless kick.
It is likely Lancaster will want to evaluate the twin playmaking option in action against the Wallabies and he will have been reassured by the build up play between Ford and Farrell that led to May’s first try.
“There were definitely aspects out there that we had when we were growing up playing together,” added Ford, who also played with Farrell for the England Under-20s in the final of the junior world championship.
“We were constantly talking, which was the main thing – talking about the game and how we could get better.
“There were a couple of timing issues as a backline off first-phase plays, but there were some good ones – we scored a first-phase try and Jonny May finished it very well.
“Owen and I have had a few of those moments in our careers together. It was brilliant execution by Owen. He ran really straight.”
Ford’s composure, May’s brilliant finishing and Anthony Watson’s slick footwork were the highlights of a flawed performance. Once again they were guilty of failing to adapt to the conditions, overlooking their set-piece and forward strengths in an overly-ambitious gameplan that suited Samoa.
It was only when the rain had relented after the interval that Lancaster’s men, wearing their red change kit, were able to stamp any semblance of authority on the night with May and Brown finishing high-quality tries. The last quarter meandered but it was the result required to lift spirits before the visit of Australia,
England players kneeled alongside the Pacific Islanders in prayer after the match as a show of solidarity for the players dismayed by the corruption and mismanagement in their governing body.
“We wished them good luck for the future and thanked them for the game and they said the same back,” said Ford.
“It was a brilliant moment to be involved in something like that because you are smashing people in the game – or getting smashed up in my case – then you come together at the end as one and shake hands.”
England: Brown, Watson, Barritt, Farrell (Twelvetrees 65), May (Yarde 61), Ford, Youngs; Marler (Brookes 60), Webber (Hartley 70), Wilson (Mullan 60), Attwood, Lawes (Kruis 54), Haskell (Wood), Robshaw, Morgan. Unused replacements: Wigglesworth.
Samoa: K Pisi, Leiua, Lee-Lo, Leota, Lemi, T Pisi (Stanley 69), Fotuali’i; Taulafo (Afatia 78), T Paulo (Leiataua 62), Johnston (Perenise 56), F Paulo (Leo 52), Thompson, Fa’asavalu, Lam (Ioane 56), Treviranus. Unused replacements: Lemalu, Cowley.
Referee: J Peyper (South Africa).