SCOTLAND hooker Ross Ford and his club coach Alan Solomons have decided that the positive energy generated by the national team’s encouraging Autumn Test series can compensate for the fatigue which comes from playing a key role in those matches against Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga.
The 30-year-old, who started in all three of Scotland’s matches during the last month and lasted until well into the final quarter of each contest, has been named in the starting line-up for Edinburgh’s clash against Zebre this afternoon.
Winger Tim Visser has also been brought straight back into the side. However, tiredness is less likely to be a concern in his case, given that his only appearance in the series was against Tonga last Saturday.
Prop Alasdair Dickinson, who also started all three autumn Tests, has been given the week off – although he is likely to be brought back into the fold for next week’s Challenge Cup clash with London Welsh.
Solomons said: “They’ve had a great time with Scotland, they really enjoyed that, so they are in good form mentally and physically coming back into the fold, and I think they will add a lot of value.
“They’ve got a bit of a spring in their step, they feel good about themselves and it’s always nice to come off the back of a successful series of Test matches.
“Remember, they’ve only played three Tests on the bounce, it’s not like the Six Nations where there is an extra two games.
“But I know I’ve got to look after these guys because they have still played three Tests. I’ve got to look at how I manage the load. We have looked ahead and we’ve got some ideas in place, but we have to make decisions on a week-by-week basis because sometimes decisions are made for you.”
Solomons went on to praise the way Ford bounced back from a disappointing Six Nations campaign to re-establish himself as a key component of the national set-up in recent weeks.
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He said: “I will say this for Fordy, he has played well for Edinburgh all the time.
“Things didn’t go well for the national team generally in that particular game against England, but he came back to Edinburgh and focused on his game, he performed really well for us, and he’s taken that form into the international team now. He is a good international rugby player.”
For his part, Ford certainly believes that he is ready to jump straight back into action with Edinburgh this week.
He said: “The team winning on Sunday against Cardiff meant that, when I came back to train on Tuesday, the boys were upbeat and looking forward to the match this weekend.
“Zebre have shown some good form at home this year so we’ll have to execute well and play to the best of our ability to get a good result.”
Zebre may have lost their last four league games but the fact that their last win was against a side of the calibre of Ulster – albeit reduced to 14 men after just ten minutes when prop Declan Fitzpatrick was red carded for punching Zebre hooker Andrea Manici – shows that they can be formidable opponents on their own patch.
Zebre also pushed high-flying Ospreys all the way before going down 14-15 in their next outing, although their confidence will have taken a dent from last week’s painful 43-3 mauling at Connacht.
Solomons said: “I think you’ve just got to focus on this particular performance. It’s not a case of backing up what happened last weekend – it’s about delivering good performance this weekend in Zebre.
“We know they are not easy at home. They are wholly owned by the Italian federation and there is a lot of time and effort put into that team.
“There is certainly a good sprinkling of the Italian national team players there and, on top of that, they have one or two other individuals like [scrum-half] Brendon Leonard, who is an outstanding player. You don’t play for the All Blacks unless you are a good player.
“There’s no doubt there is a difference between an away game against these guys and a home game. They have struggled on the road, but at home they have got some good results.”
Matt Scott continues his rehabilitation after six months recovering from shoulder surgery by starting his second consecutive game at outside centre.
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