Ross Ford

The man nick­named ‘ Lego Heid’ has spent ten years help­ing to lay build­ing blocks at Ed­in­burgh

Rugby World - - CONTENTS - Words Sarah Mock­ford // Pic­tures Getty Images & In­pho

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

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