Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill may have gone for youth by appointing 22-year-old forward Magnus Bradbury as captain, but that doesn’t mean more senior figures can take a back seat.
The 46-year-old Englishman was blunt in his assessment that more experienced captains had failed to deliver in recent years and that he was looking to underline his fresh-start mentality with Bradbury as on-field leader.
If it seems strange to some that Scotland’s most-capped player of all time, Ross Ford, has a skipper more than a decade younger than him then it is not an issue for the veteran skipper, who is happy to take a mentor role with the new captain and squad in general. After Grant Gilchrist and Stuart McInally started last season as co-captains, Ford stepped in towards the end of a disappointing campaign.
He may not have got the nod to continue but Cockerill, pictured, has made it clear that he expects Ford to be a key man in driving the improvements everybody associated with the club desperately wants.
Ford said: “We all had one to ones before the summer break with Richard and he spoke to me and said ‘you are a good pro, you have been here a while, you need to try to instil the standards to those around you’, he was quite forthright with it so I try to do that. We just have to help out a bit more with the younger players and make sure they are happy with what is going on.”
The 33-year-old Kelsonian, who passed fellow Borderer Chris Paterson’s cap record of 109 in the summer Test against Fiji, said he felt energised as he embarks on his 11th season with the capital club, which has started with two welcome wins away to Cardiff and at home to Dragons.
Cockerill, though, certainly didn’t hold back in saying that bonus-point win at Myreside last Friday was not nearly enough to satisfy him.
“Yeah obviously everything is different because it is a new coaching team, but Cockers does instil a confidence in the squad by the way he speaks, we certainly know what he expects from us,” said Ford.
“For example it was a win [35-18] on Friday night, but just the way we performed wasn’t what we expect from ourselves and it wasn’t what he expects from us. So he has set the standard and we need to reach it.
“If you are winning and still not playing well then that is only something that can be built on.”
Ford believes the appointment of Bradbury is an exciting one for the future of Edinburgh and Scottish rugby.
“I think it is very refreshing.” he said. “I think with Maggy being captain it is good for the club. He leads by example and it will help him bring his own game.
“Someone like [21-year-old flanker] Jamie Ritchie has a huge role to play, too. He is one of the leaders in the team, he speaks well to the group and he performs well, leading out there on the pitch.”
Ford has been back on the bench for the first two Pro14 matches as 27-year-old McInally has been given first crack at the starting No 2 jersey. Ford added: “I have always understood it is up to me, if I am playing well I’lll start, if not I won’t.”
The hooker’s appearance from the bench received one of the loudest cheers from what was a disappointing Myreside. crowd of fewer than 3,500 for the season’s first home game.
“It is quite difficult because we only just moved there last year and played a few games, but it is a good pitch and they have done a lot of work to things around the pitch and I think it is promising,” said Ford. “Supporters will come out to watch us, we just have to be consistent week in and week out and get results, that is the main thing. The people [who are there] certainly get behind the team.”