Scotland hooker Ross Ford has interrupted preparations for Saturday’s opening viagogo Autumn Test with Japan at Murrayfield to sing the praises of an up-and-coming Edinburgh colleague.
It is typical of the magnanimous Ford that he is not only willing to share tips but also offer encouragement to individuals who others might regard as a threat to their international place, both short and long term.
However, the 68-times capped British and Irish Lion sees the bigger picture in terms of competition bringing out the best in him and, asked about Scotland using FOUR hookers on a recent summer tour when he was recovering from a calf injury, said: “We know there are a lot more young boys coming through and challenging. There’s Pat McArthur (a substitute this weekend), Scotty (Lawson) is still involved, Dougie Hall also who knows what to do. And, of course, Stuart McInally is coming through and George Turner as well.”
Such a list did not include Steve Lawrie and Fraser Brown who, like McArthur and Lawson, were capped this summer.
It is, however, the mention of Turner that is intriguing as the former Stewart’s Melville hooker has yet to debut for Edinburgh where he ranks behind Ford, Tongan Aleki Lutui, Australian James Hilterbrand, Steve Lawrie and possibly Alun Walker who is on loan at Nottingham. Nevertheless, Ford, inset, echoed what many followers of Premiership rugby are saying when invited to elaborate on Turner’s potential.
“George Turner is someone I’ve heard good reports from at Heriot’s. Even at training (as an Edinburgh development signing) he looks a dynamic, explosive player. I think he will be a good player coming through.
“I hope he can play for Edinburgh and go the whole way. There’s no reason why not if he keeps working at it. Hopefully he’ll get a chance and take it.
“Hooker hasn’t been a position of strength like scrum half or back row for Scotland so it is good to see.”
As well as Turner, who turned 21 last month, Ford, 29, believes Stuart McInally can cut the mustard even though he has just made a first competitive appearance in the role for Currie having switched from back row where he gained an A cap out of Edinburgh.
“Converting does not take as long these days and you do get used to it. If it is a bigger pack you come across it might be tougher but you can adapt.
“Changing position can be done fairly quickly and that will help Stuart. It is up to me to show him and others what it takes to play for Scotland.
“My goal is to be No. 1 for Scotland for a long time and also help develop these boys. At the same time I feel I have to step up to the plate and I’m enjoying the challenge.
“I’m trying to help Stuart McInally any way I can. He’s a good player anyway. It is just the technical things he needs to dwell on.”
Ford himself converted from back row going on to win a first cap in 2004. He added: “I can already see Stuart coming on quicker than I was. There’s a bright future for him.”
Although Japanese sides have grown physically even from when the first of three full cap internationals between the countries was staged at the 1991 World Cup, Ford is still expecting that the home scrum might have to adapt. “The set piece in any international has got to be solid. The Japanese have a very squat front row, very strong and their hooker plays in Super-15 so there’s experience there.
“We’ll maybe have to go a bit lower than usual and get our hit right. If you are not careful how you scrum against Japan they will come back at you and have a real go.”
Line-out preparations will also have to take into account the fact it will be the first time Ford has thrown to Tim Swinson, the Glasgow second row capped twice this summer.
“A little bit of time has to be spent developing a rapport with a new jumper. A lot comes down to having trust that everybody does the same thing at the right time.”