Coach Alan Solomons is set to waste no time in drafting hooker Ross Ford straight back from Scotland duty when Edinburgh face Italian side Zebre in the Guinness Pro 12 tomorrow.
Ford, who played in all three Autumn Tests against Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga, is comfortable with the schedule, but admits he faces strong competition from several prospects including teenager Jake Kerr, who was on the bench for Edinburgh’s last assignment outside the Capital, at Leinster.
Kerr was the only unused substitute, but Solomons was playing a long game regarding a player who was attached to the squad amidst a serious injury crisis.
“Jake Kerr is a real prospect,” said Solomons. “He is a young, young guy. To go in against the champions in the front row – I’m not sure it was the right thing to do. I thought his involvement with the team was great ... I think he will one day play for Scotland.
“He’ll get a cap. This guy is a really good rugby player. We have some really good Scottish youngsters.”
Ford agrees in readily accepting an obligation to help up-and-comings in a position where James Hilterbrand, Neil Cochrane, George Turner and Stuart McInally, as well as Kerr, are snapping at his heels – while looking to his own laurels and not become too complacent.
“I came back [from Scotland duty] and all the hookers were doing throwing drills,” said Ford. “I jumped in and joined them not to let them get too far ahead! Hopefully, I can pass stuff on. To have them coming back pushes everybody and gives the coaches more options, which means I have to keep a hold of the jersey. Naturally, we help each other. If you see something you give them a bit of help and see if it works.
“The younger lads are learning what works and what doesn’t. If I can speed that up, I’ll do that.”
As for Kerr in particular, Ford said: “I’ve seen a couple of clips of Jake’s games and seen him in training. He is very mobile and his set-piece skills are good. He is very young, but coming into this squad at a good age to be able to learn off everybody.
“He’s a confident boy which is good to have in this position. He’ll be another one for the future.”
On the team front, Ford shares coach Solomons’ belief that momentum is being generated partly on the back of a win at home to Cardiff last weekend. Just one try was conceded which was a source of satisfaction demonstrating that systems put in place by Omar Mouneimne, who has now returned to South African side, the Kings, are working.
“We’ll take a measured decision. We are au fait as are the players with the systems.
“Steve [Scott] and myself have a reasonable amount of coaching experience we deal with it and, ultimately, we will make a decision on bringing someone in. At the moment we’ll let it run.
“We’ll be calm and composed. The systems are in and we have to maintain those systems. We have got to do what we think is right, we are not going to rush in.”
Edinburgh lost on their visit to Zebre last season, but the centrally-owned Parma outfit have beaten only Ulster this season. Solomons names his team later today but hinted that last weekend’s try-hero Tom Brown will lose out to returning Scotland star, Tim Visser, on the wing. “Obviously Tim is coming back from the national team so you have to take cognisance of someone coming back. There is a question of principal there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Solomons today refused to deny that Scots-qualified New Zealand back-rows Hugh Blake and John Hardie are bound for the club.
The Evening News revealed on November 17 that Blake had already signed and that Hardie was being lined up to join him when his current contract with Otago expires next summer.
But, despite Blake going so far as to say: “I did it all through Scottish director of rugby Scott Johnson,” – Solomons remained taciturn.
Where he was forthcoming was in deferring to the director of rugby at the Scottish Rugby Union owners.
“Johnno is head man. In this particular instance Scott Johnson is the best person to speak to,” added Solomons.