England fly half George Ford believes his experiences in Argentina in the summer helped him grow as person and leader within the squad.
The 24-year-old was one of the more senior players on the tour where England secured a 2-0 Test series win in South America.
A number of England internationals were with the British & Irish Lions squad in New Zealand giving chances to a host of new players, but Ford enjoyed the added responsibility placed on him.
Ford was part of England’s 33-man training squad that gathered at a three-day camp in Oxford last week as preparation began to focus on the Old Mutual Wealth Series matches against Argentina, Australia and Samoa in November.
“The experience of that tour was great for me in terms of leadership stuff, not only on the field but off the field with guys being away and a lot of new and young lads coming in,” he said.
“To go to Argentina and play their team in some pretty hostile environments and come up with two wins playing some good rugby was great really and I really enjoyed it.
“There will be a lot of guys who benefited from that, young and old, and I think for us coming back together it is now about the next challenge.
“There was probably only Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Mike Brown and myself who were the more experienced guys who helped Dylan off the field, and to help bring the guys together was a different challenge for us and one I learnt from a lot.
Life at Tigers
After four Aviva Premiership seasons at Bath, Ford returned to Leicester Tigers this summer, the club where he began his career.
It reunites him with international team mate Ben Youngs who plays scrum half at Welford Road and after four games of the new campaign, which has brought two wins, Ford says there is much more to come.
“I’m loving being at Leicester and the last couple of weeks we’ve been a bit more like us having come off the disappointment of the first two results,” he said.
“It’s about learning combinations. There has been some good aspects of our game as a team but we’ve not been as consistent as we’d like.”
The new breed
Out of those who got their first caps in South America, Tom Curry, Nick Isiekwe, Sam Underhill, Harry Williams, Piers Francis and Alex Lozowski were all called up again for the camp in Oxford.
The uncapped duo of fly half Marcus Smith and hooker Tom Dunn were also added to the squad, with head coach Eddie Jones joking 18-year-old Smith was only there to polish the boots of first-choice Ford.
“I polish them myself; trust me, I wouldn’t make him do that,” said Ford.
“I played against him at the weekend and he’s been in camp a couple of times and he’s such a talented lad and he’s a great guy in terms of having feet on the ground, he’s got a great head on him.
“The one thing I always remember is the guys who helped me settle down and helped me in terms of off the field stuff, so when you go on the field you understand what’s going on.”