Ross Ford: Italian in Scots pack can be key factor

Ross Ford believes Scotland coach Massimo Cuttitta will provide specialist insight into the Azzurri
Ross Ford believes Scotland coach Massimo Cuttitta will provide specialist insight into the Azzurri
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Ross Ford believes Scottish rugby’s scrummaging coach Massimo Cuttitta can play a major role in getting the side back to winning ways against the Azzurri at BT Murrayfield on Saturday week.

The Scots’ last three defeats – against New Zealand, France and Wales – have been by an aggregate margin of just 18 points during which the overall try counts have been shared at four apiece.

In searching for a way to turn things around hooker Ford is hopeful that the man who arrived in Scottish rugby with Edinburgh in 2006, moving on to the national side two years later, will have vital insights and input as a former Italian internationalist capped 69 times.

“Massimo has been with us a long time. He knows the Italian mindset and it always means a lot to him to play against his old team. He is passionate about his scrumming,” said Ford who has been part of the home side which has beaten Italy on their last three visits to the Capital.

“He believes in the forward pack Scotland have. He always gets hyped up for this game in particular. He loves the aspect of scrumming and everything that goes with it, the mentality of fronting up and being able to dominate your opposite number.”

This time, however, Ford acknowledges there could be a different approach from the visitors.

“The recent home record in this fixture has been good but we have to cover everything because the last two games Italy have opened really well and played a lot more rugby.

“They look very dangerous at times and we’ll have to be sharper than we have been so far.

“Italy always go out hard and you have to be able to stop that and then impose your game and then keep that going for the full 80 minutes. They are a dangerous outfit when they get their tails up. The way their forwards are moving the ball about is something we have not seen that many times from their pack as a whole.”

In fact, Italy actually opened the scoring against England at Twickenham last weekend before losing 47-17 and, against Ireland in the opening round at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, they were just 3-9 adrift at the interval.

Ford was speaking as part of a Ginger Grouse promotion recalling inspirational Scottish rugby moments and what the British and Irish Lion probably didn’t realise was that, by coincidence, it was exactly 20 years to the day when he had been inspired to take up rugby.

Giving the Evening News an insight into the moment when he wanted to be a professional player, the 30-year-old attributed it to a match played on February 18, 1995 in Paris.

“It had been a long time since Scotland had beaten France and in a really tight game the breakthrough came down to a flip pass out the back of the hand from Gregor Townsend to send Gavin Hastings under the posts to score.

“That was a game I really enjoyed. I went outside my house right after the game with pals and started flicking rugby balls around trying to emulate that pass from Toony to Gavin.

“I thought then I’d love to be able to play rugby for a living. Seeing them do that in Paris made me want to be able to play rugby professionally.

“Growing up watching internationals at my local club in Kelso was a factor too. I really was young when I thought it would be great to do what I love every day. It was at a very early age I fancied the idea of doing rugby professionally.”

Now, 82 caps later, Ford is says it won’t be enough just to be Six Nations king makers with Ireland and England still to play, as well as Italy.

“We have performed well in parts in both the games so far and we were unlucky in the Wales game.

“Our pride will be on the line for the remaining matches.

“We have two weeks where we can work towards getting a great performance and giving the fans something to get behind and really celebrate.

“The next two weeks will be a lot of hard graft and peaking towards getting the best mindset and being ready to go.

“The Italy match is just another step on the Six Nations campaign.

“We know we can cause teams a lot of problems if we do get it right.

“We are out there to do as well as we can. We can’t do anything about the results that have gone before.

“All we can try and do is address the areas that need work on, tidy things up, cut out mistakes and execute well in right areas.”

• Ross Ford was speaking in conjunction with Scottish Rugby’s sponsorship partner Ginger Grouse who have compiled a timeline of ‘famous rugby moments’ which have stirred the spirts of rugby fans across the country.