ONE of the best players in dark blue yesterday was Ross Ford, pictured. The hooker’s throwing in at the lineout was exemplary, and his dynamism in the loose was a big part of a forward display that eventually blew Tonga off the plastic.
Ford has bought into the Vern Cotter revolution with gusto, and the 2009 British and Irish Lion is clearly enjoying life under the new head coach. So what’s turned things round for Scotland?
“The atmosphere is positive,” said Ford. “It’s a big change from previous campaigns.
“It leads to winning, enjoying your training and playing in a more adventurous manner – everything just gels together.
“It always helps when you are winning, but just playing in a team that is throwing the ball around and everyone is geeing each other up, backing each other and creating opportunities for everybody – it’s great to be involved in a team like that.
“Vern has been brilliant, I can’t speak highly enough of him. He is very laid back but he gets his point across. You have to perform under pressure, but Vern doesn’t come across as putting you under pressure.
“You know what has to be done and he backs you to go out and make the right decisions on the park. He’s been really good for the squad.”
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So is it all down to Cotter bringing in just a change of heart, and just more passion?
“You can’t get away with just being spirited at this level,” said Ford, “so it has to go hand in hand with the technical stuff. You have to be technically good, fit enough and have an understanding of the game, then you put it together with the push to get that spirit together and get everyone fighting for the same cause.
“We have performed well on the pitch, which has helped back up what we have been doing.”
The lineout is one of the technical areas of the game in which Scotland has vastly improved, especially in the variety of options which the Scots now possess and which they showed in abundance against Tonga. Ford said: “The lineout is simple, but when you have a lot of different jumpers as we have you can vary it and there’s always somewhere open – it’s about doing a simple thing really well.”
Scotland’s most-capped hooker has always loved to rampage in the loose and was no different in his 80th appearance for his country. Again he paid tribute to Cotter for his influence that has made the Scottish approach more in keeping with Ford’s preferences.
“It’s the way Vern wants us to play,” said Ford. “He wants us to work hard and if everybody is doing their bit spaces open up all over so you stick to the sort of structure that allows you to run into those spaces. It’s about the spirit of working together and creating those opportunities.”
Now for the Six Nations: “We have had a good autumn with two wins from three and some tries scored. We have put ourselves in a good place to go into the Six Nations, but we have to develop as players and as a team because nobody ever stays still, you have to keep on improving.”
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