Edinburgh centurion Ford relishes derby days
Despite his modest nature and humble reflection on his time at the club, there are few players that have had a more significant impact on rugby in the Scottish capital and the 1872 Cup than centurion, Ross Ford.
Ford needs very little introduction to Edinburgh and Scotland fans, picking up 197 caps for the capital side and 110 caps for Scotland – making him the most capped Scotland player of all time.
The Hooker also picked up a Lions test cap on the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa, cementing himself as an all-time great.
Born in Kelso, Ford started his rugby career playing for the Border Reivers before their disbandment, at which point he had an incredibly brief stint with Glasgow Warriors.
He never played, and didn’t put on any Glasgow kit, before transferring to Edinburgh during the 2007 World Cup – and he never looked back.
In Ford’s early Edinburgh years, the side was dominant against Glasgow, and the Kelso man always revelled in the fiery nature of the fixture.
“The first few times I played them we were going well; we won the games at home quite comfortably. It was tougher away at Firhill, they were tight games, but they were good fun. You enjoyed playing in them because they were a bit tetchy, rugby went out of the window at times, and it became almost a brawl.
“The Six Nations were always closely after the games, and if you could get one over your opposite number and perform well, it would usually be someone who was gunning for your spot in the Scotland squad.
“It was a bit two-fold, because the game was about bragging rights, but also a bit about the selection subplot.”
Ford enjoyed the niggle, tension, and drama that a derby match can bring. Usually a reserved figure in interviews, Ford jokingly suggested in 2014 that Al Kellock – Player of the Match in the opening leg of the 1872 Cup – was only in the side because Jonny Gray was being rested, and this his performance was only “alright”.
For Ford, it was all part of the fun of the derby fixture…
“It was the same for them, everything was just a bit heightened, every little bit counted. You knew the characters in the squad because you’ve toured with them and played with them in the autumn, but sometimes it was about winding other guys up!
“It was a bit more than rugby, there were a lot of mind games and things like that too which was fun.
“They were the kind of things you’d enjoy, winding it all up a bit, it was all just a bit of fun really. I can remember when Scott Macleod and Chris Fusaro had a scrap and got sin-binned, but after the game they were good as gold. You know it’s just on the pitch, you go at it and then it’s fine after.”
One of Ford’s best 1872 moments came in the 2008/09 1872 Cup, helping the side to a thumping 39-6 win against the local rivals, playing alongside current Edinburgh Head Coach Mike Blair; whose rugby IQ was evident for Ford in their playing days, and can be seen in the current Edinburgh side.
“One of the best ones for me was the 2008 game, Mike gunned for Dan Parks and got an interception and then cruised under the posts. That set us up, we had done our homework and it all seemed to click and we played some good rugby.
“Mike was always switched on and did his homework, and you can see how the guys are buying into that now. Mike would see things, and you’d just have to react to it on the pitch.
“He was always looking for opportunities and looking for gaps, and you can see that with the boys now, there seem to be gaps everywhere for them because they’re all buying into it.”
Ford retired just shy of 200 Edinburgh Caps, and it will always be his club. A Borders man, Ford adopted the capital city as his own, and thrived when representing his club and the players around him.
“I didn’t grow up in Edinburgh, but it has been my club for so long now, so you always wanted to do well for them.
“But it was also wanting to do well for the guys you were involved with, we had a great group of boys, so you wanted to do them justice, representing the guys next to you and the guys in the squad.
“It was a good opportunity to show much it all meant, playing against your rivals with a big crowd. It was a great showcase and atmosphere, with the crowd behind you giving you a buzz.
Edinburgh Rugby became a family for the hooker, as it has for numerous players through the years. The 1872 Cup is one of the biggest fixtures of the year for the club, and for Ford it meant even more for those who have moved to Edinburgh from afar, representing their new rugby family.
“When boys come across from abroad, they buy into the culture, and in a way their family is the Edinburgh squad. They almost wanted to win more, because Edinburgh was their family. It never needed explaining to them, you didn’t need to emphasise the game, they just always bought into it.”
Ross is now enjoying being on the side-lines, working as a Strength and Conditioning coach for the Scottish Rugby Academy, and is enjoying watching the games that he played in for so many years.
“I actually don’t miss it, I’m enjoying watching, I’ve had my time! There’s something nice about knowing what the guys are going through and being able to enjoy it and watch from the outside.
“I get the pleasure of just sitting down and watching the rugby and enjoy it for being a great game of rugby!”