Scotland captain Ross Ford has revealed a debt of gratitude to the All Blacks rugby establishment as he prepares to lead his team for the first time in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with England at Murrayfield.
Back in 2009 hooker Ford, then 24, was given the opportunity to be mentored under the Winning Scotland Foundation programme by Sean Fitzpatrick whose 92 caps for New Zealand included 51 as captain while one-time Kiwi assistant coach Tony Gilbert is another who has aided his development.
Recalls Ford: “I spoke to Sean Fitzpatrick a couple of times and learned a few good things from him.
“At that point it was mostly about my game rather than leadership but he did put a few things across to the effect that it was about leading by example.
“Sean told me he felt as captain he had to do more than anybody else in games.
“I met him and person and we talked on the telephone. I found him a very engaging man who, when he speaks, doesn’t shout or roar.
“He came across as very level-headed in his judgments. I like that approach.
“It’s a couple of years since I have spoken with Sean but I haven’t forgotten those sessions we had. What he said was valuable and some of his advice I use every day in my career.”
As for Tony Gilbert, he had an even more pronounced effect on Ford since without him it is debateable the denizen of Kelso would ever have progressed to the international arena.
“Before moving to Edinburgh I was actually signed by the Border Reivers as a flanker.
“A couple of coaches at my old Kelso club had made suggestions that I might do better in the front row – they definitely saw something – but at that stage I didn’t fancy the idea too much.
“Then, at the Borders under Tony Gilbert’s coaching, the move was made.
“He must have been more persuasive and when I look at the pretty phenomenal competition around just now in the back round I’m glad I switched.”
Edinburgh fans will have fond memories of a particular try Ford scored in 2008 when Leicester Tigers were defeated 17-12 at Murrayfield in the Heineken European Cup as it meant covering the length of the pitch to be up in support for a scoring pass.
“Some of the things I learned as a flanker I’ve tried to bring along with me into my hooking position.
“I do try to be mobile but I’ve certainly no regrets today about moving to hooker from flanker.”