The man nicknamed ‘ Lego Heid’ has spent ten years helping to lay building blocks at Edinburgh
IVEN THAT words like ‘professional’ and ‘hard-working’ pepper conversations about Ross Ford, it’s little wonder that funny stories about Scotland’s most-capped player are in short supply, if not non-existent. No anecdotes about mischief-making, no embarrassing moments.
The best that Roddy Grant – a former team-mate of Ford at the Borders and Edinburgh and now a coach at the capital club – can offer is how he and Scott MacLeod call him ‘Lego Heid’ given his “square head and solid black hair”.
With a decade and a half of pro rugby on his CV – that’s 84 games for Borders and 179 for Edinburgh, as well as the record 110 Tests for his country and one for the Lions – it’s impressive there is not a hatful of tales that would leave the hooker red-faced. It seems he keeps his head down off the field in the same way he does when packing down at a scrum.
And that reinforces how his work ethic has contributed to his longevity. “He’s very professional, in his preparation and how he trains,” says Grant. “What’s really struck me is all the extras and work-ons he still does now. He keeps trying to improve and that’s why he’s been so successful for years. It’s a good barometer of how he got there.”
Stuart McInally also highlights Ford’s high
Gstandards, particularly when discussing how the 34-year-old helped him to complete the transition from back-row to hooker. It’s a positional switch Ford himself made and Scotland’s most recent skipper has benefited from his advice.
“Ross was probably the first person I spoke to about whether he thought the move was a good idea and he was so positive about it,” says McInally. “He couldn’t have helped me any more and I couldn’t have had a better mentor.
“He told me to expect dark days, times when I’d get driven back in the scrum and my face would be pulled through the mud, that I’d wonder what the hell
I’d done, which has happened! It was good to have him to chat to as he’d been through it.
“He works so hard – it’s why he’s achieved so much. He’s always looking to get better and is the hardest worker in the game. If Ross wasn’t there I’d not have trained as hard; I needed to catch up to his level.”
Ford has become more vocal in meetings, too, passing on his expertise around the set-piece. McInally says: “He’s an old head – he’ll kill me for saying that! – and has a lot of experience, so he realises things that are obvious to him are not obvious to others. He’s a massive leader in the squad and speaks mainly around the scrum. I’m still learning a lot from him. After every scrummaging session we’ll watch it and talk about what we were trying to do and whether it worked.”
Ford managed only four club appearances last season before injury struck and ruled him out for the rest of the campaign, but Grant expects him to play a big role in the coming months as Edinburgh look to build on the progress made under Richard Cockerill in 2017-18.
“He worked really hard in pre-season,” says Grant. “He’s always been in great shape but he’s been getting lean and nimble. Hopefully he’ll hit the ground running from the start of the season.”
McInally, too, is looking forward to competing for the No 2 jersey with his mentor and “bringing the best out of each other”. Whether Ford will also be competing with McInally for a Scotland berth is down to Gregor Townsend. He won the most recent of his 110 caps in June 2017 but there may be more Tests in his thirtysomething legs, such is his durability and consistency.
Whatever the season holds, there is no risk of this Lego Heid becoming a big head. Grant says: “He’s the most-capped Scotland player of all time, but he’s a very humble guy from the Borders.”
FACT FILEAge 34 (23 April 1984) Born LeithClub Edinburgh Position Hooker Height 6ft 1inWeight 18st 8lb Scotland caps 110 (5T) Lions caps One