Scotland rugby captain Ross Ford has sounded a rallying call ahead of Sunday’s RBS Six Nations Championship clash with France at Murrayfield by invoking the spirit that has seen domestic teams unbeaten against rivals from across the Channel this season.
In the Heineken European Cup, Edinburgh have got the better of Racing Metro both home and away scoring a whopping nine tries in the process. Along the M8, Glasgow defeated a Montpellier side, who provide playmaker Francois Trinh-duc to the Tricolours’ starting line-up, at home then earned a credible 13-13 draw away.
Reinforcing hooker Ford’s view that the Scots have proved themselves capable of competing successfully in the company of France’s elite is the fact in their last eight cross-channel encounters at club level the Edinburgh side have won six – or 75 per cent – with the scalps of Castres (3) and Stade Francais also hanging from their belts.
Furthermore, second row Jim Hamilton was in a Gloucester team which beat Toulouse this season and Sean Lamont scored a try as his Llanelli outfit brought down Castres at Parc y Scarlets.
Well aware that Edinburgh provide nine of coach Andy Robinson’s latest match-day squad Ford said: “Glasgow performed well against French counterparts and Edinburgh likewise in our fixture. Along with some others south of the Border we have got guys in the squad who know what to do when it comes to playing French opposition.”
The burning issue, as Ford acknowledged, is knowing which French team will present itself. Will it be the rag-tag outfit which lost to Tonga in a World Cup sectional tie last Autumn . . . or the dashing musketeers who ran home favourites New Zealand to within a single kick of winning a World Cup just a few weeks later?
Ford said: “We’ll take into account both styles of play shown recently by France when doing our preparation. Obviously Tonga managed to upset them so you have to look and see how they managed that. But we’ll look at the other side of France, too.
“Above all we are our own team. Scotland have to do what Scotland do best because there is no point at looking at other teams when they don’t play the same as us. We have got to make sure we are in control when we have the ball and at how we defend when they have the ball.
“On every occasion we have to increase our level of intensity and do it with finishing touches through basic things done well so we can put teams under pressure.
“We haven’t been scoring a lot of tries but it can be like trying to get the first putt to drop in golf. After that. . .”
One aspect of the last Murrayfield outing, against England, Ford would like to see repeated was the storming start which saw Jim Hamilton come close to bursting through in the initial play of the game. “Jim did make a good break and we did come out of the traps in a way we intend to replicate by getting front foot ball only being more accurate,” he said. The build-up to this clash has partly featured the decision by Scotland centre Nick De Luca to close down a Twitter account as criticisms broke the boundaries of acceptability.
Ford himself is on Twitter but appears to use the social network sparingly by restricting himself to messages of goodwill to rugby mates and teams and the occasional dalliance into light entertainment – “Does anybody else think that the twins on Big Brother are the female equivalent of Jedward?” he recently asked. As captain, does he regret the fact that attempts to communicate by members of his team have been subverted by a noisy and anonymous few?
“It is part and parcel, you just have to take the good with the bad. It (criticism) is not ideal but the vast majority get behind the boys and it is great to see Murrayfield sold out for Sunday.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion. As players we take it hardest when things don’t go well. We go out to win and put absolutely everything into it.
“When it doesn’t come off we are most disappointed because of the hours we put in,” said Ford whose commitment to the cause might even extend to Twitter itself.
“I just like to nose in and catch up with what is going on,” he grinned.
France team: M Medard (Toulouse); V Clerc (Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), J Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne); J-B Poux (Toulouse), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), N Mas (Perpignan), P Pape (Stade Francais), Y Maestri (Toulouse), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), L Picamoles (Toulouse). Replacements: W Servat (Toulouse), V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), L Nallet (Racing Metro), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), J Dupuy (Stade Francais) L Beauxis (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Perpignan).