Stuart Barnes believes George Ford has changed his game for the worst since breaking onto the scene as an all guns blazing, exciting teenager.
Leicester Tigers latest defeat, a narrow 25-23 loss to Newcastle at Welford Road, has prompted the 55-year-old to write about Ford in his column for The Times.
“For a player of his ability, it was not enough,” wrote Barnes, regarding Ford’s latest performance.
“Ford’s flight of imagination has been grounded. The balance between the sneaking breaks and the stream of accurate passes has been replaced with an almost monotonous distribution, too far from the opposing back line to threaten, too lacking in variety to make defenders think.
“Frankly, any half-decent footballer could have done as much as Ford in what proved a crushing defeat for Leicester in the Premiership.
“Leicester were protecting their lead when they should have been going for the kill. For Leicester read their captain and decision-maker, Ford. Where there was once a fresh-faced and positive-minded fly half, there’s now a more experienced operator learning the wrong lessons with age.
“The great fly halves are the ones who make things happen. The average ones try not to do too much wrong. Ford exploded on to the senior scene from junior rugby as the most creative fly half in the world.
“Now he is tapering out into a highly skilled, risk-averse pivot — dime a dozen. Age brings him not so much wisdom as conservatism.
“His personal journey from rugby’s bold to cautious does not suit him. He’s too talented a player to finish the game having not done much wrong. All that match-winning ability of which he has so much is being wasted.”