DCSIMG

Ross Ford: Two years to help Edinburgh win

Ross Ford says deciding to stay with Edinburgh was an easy decision. Picture: SNS/SRU

Ross Ford says deciding to stay with Edinburgh was an easy decision. Picture: SNS/SRU

  • by GARETH BLACK
 

HAVING just signed a two-year contract extension which will keep him at Edinburgh Rugby until he is at least 32, Ross Ford is determined to prove that his decision to commit to a team currently languishing eighth in the RaboDirect Pro 12 does not represent a lack of ambition.

Although he’s a veteran who has lost his place in the national set-up, he does not want to be be seen as content to see out his professional career in the comfort zone of the club he has represented for the last seven years.

The hooker admits that when last season slid badly off the rails for Edinburgh, he spent some time thinking about whether he should try his hand elsewhere when his contract ran out this summer.

But he has been so impressed by the impact Alan Solomons has made since arriving as head coach at the start of the current campaign that committing to the club for another two years was one of the easiest decisions he has ever made.

“It was just a case of signing the paper. Everything went well and I’m glad to be staying at Edinburgh to continue working with Alan and the rest of the team,’ said Ford.

“There were thoughts about leaving early on but I was still in contract and Alan had just come in so I wanted to see what was going to happen. I like the way he works, he’s a good coach, and I like to think the style of rugby that Edinburgh plays suits me. There’s no doubt about what you have to do and how hard you have to work to be part of this club. Alan has worked us hard and I think that, while we still have a bit to go, you can see consistent improvements in our performances. We’re playing a type of game that suits us and that’s tough to beat.”

Ford will start for Edinburgh tonight against Ulster and is determined to use the match as a launchpad in his quest to recover the Scotland No 2 jersey, which he lost to Scott Lawson after two poor performances against Ireland and England at the start of the Six Nations.

“It was a fair call. I wasn’t playing particularly well and that’s what happens,” he reflected.

“I don’t know why I couldn’t get my form going. It could be a lot of factors. I’ve not really thought about it too much. I think the way Edinburgh plays suits my style,” he added.

“Of course, it wasn’t great but I have been coming back into the Edinburgh set-up throughout the Six Nations and it was fairly easy to get back in the groove. I played the Connacht and Ospreys games so that kept my hand in – and coming back in this week has been good. The boys here have had a break and are full of energy. Now they are desperate to get back to working hard so we can finish the season on a high.”

In previous years it could be a argued that a team in Edinburgh’s current position are not really playing for anything during this final tranche of matches.

Eighteen points adrift of a play-off slot with just eight games to go, and without the shadow of relegation sneaking up behind them, they could afford to lose all their remaining games and not suffer anything more serious than a bruised ego.

This year is slightly different, however, because it looks almost certain that Edinburgh will have to finish in the top six of the Rabo if they are to play in Europe’s top tier completion next year – although the precise structure of the tournament which will replace the Heineken Cup is still to be ratified.

Edinburgh are currently eight points adrift of sixth placed Scarlets with two games in hand – so an exciting climax to the season for the capital club does beckon.

“Everybody enjoys playing in Europe. It’s a great stage to perform on. If that’s the way it’s going to be then as a group we have a lot of work to do, starting this week against Ulster. We’re putting a structure and a way of playing together that works well for us, so we are confident we can pick up wins and get ourselves up the table,” said Ford.

“Ulster have got a good squad which they’ve developed over a number of years. We’re starting this process now, and we’ve had a good run of home victories so we’ve got confidence – we just have to go out and perform.’

Ford is one of three players – alongside Alasdair Dickinson and Dougie Fife – to jump straight back into club action after being involved in last Saturday’s humiliating defeat in Wales. Matt Scott, Greig Laidlaw and Dave Denton, however, have been given the week off because they were more heavily used throughout the campaign.

Solomons said: “Those boys have played a lot of big Test matches. They needed a break. There is no question it will do Dave and Matt good. Greig is going to get a longer break, but that’s understandable in all the circumstances. I’m absolutely on the same page.

Meanwhile, flanker Stephen Ferris will start for Ulster as one of six changes and one positional switch to the team which beat Scarlets at Ravenhill last weekend.

Ferris played 20 minutes against Scarlets and is selected at blindside as he continues his phased return to play from the ankle injury he suffered in November 2012.

Jared Payne is selected at fullback, with Tommy Bowe, who has scored three tries in two matches, picked on the right wing. Craig Gilroy is named on the left wing, in place of Rory Scholes, with Darren Cave named at outside-centre and Luke Marshall returning to the starting XV at inside-centre having recovered from a head injury. Paddy Jackson starts at outhalf with Michael Heaney named at scrum-half in place of the injured Ruan Pienaar.

Tom Court is selected at loosehead alongside Rob Herring and John Afoa in the front row. Johann Muller captains Ulster from the second row where he is joined by Iain Henderson, who was a second half substitute for Ireland in the RBS Six Nations win over France.

Edinburgh

15 J Cuthbert

14 D Fife

13 S Beard

12 A Strauss

11 T Brown

10 C Bezuidenhout

9 G Hart

1 A Dickinson

2 R Ford

3 W Nel

4 G Gilchrist

5 I vd Westhuizen

6 M Coman (c)

7 R Grant

8 C Du Preez

Subs

16 J Hilterbrand

17 W Blaauw

18 E McQuillin

19 O Atkins

20 T Leonardi

21 S Kennedy

22 H Leonard

23 N De Luca

Ulster

15 J Payne

14 T Bowe

13 D Cave

12 L Marshall

11 C Gilroy

10 P Jackson

9 M Heaney

1 T Court

2 R Herring

3 J Afoa

4 J Muller (c)

5 I Henderson

6 S Ferris

7 S Doyle

8 R Wilson

Subs

16 N Annett

17 A Warwick

18 R Lutton

19 D Tuohy

20 N Williams

21 R Diack

22 P Marshall

23 S McCloskey

 

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