Ross Ford praises potential of Edinburgh wing Fife

Ross Ford makes a tackle in Paris. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images. Dougie Fife is pictured below (Getty)
Ross Ford makes a tackle in Paris. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images. Dougie Fife is pictured below (Getty)
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It used to be known as “The Graveyard”, a Murrayfield arena where Welsh rugby hopes were shredded biennially.

No more, though, with Scotland obliged to use Sunday’s RBS Six Nations Championship encounter partly to prevent visiting skipper Sam Warburton and his team going where none have gone before.

Victories in ’09, ’11 and ’13 mean Wales have the opportunity to improve upon the record of the class of 1932-36 who won a record three in-a-row that still stands. And while we are dealing with the gloomy stuff, the last 240 minutes of the Edinburgh instalment have produced a single Scottish try, by substitute Max Evans, in 2009.

Even the sole victory of the past 12 years was achieved, in 2007, entirely through the boot of Chris Paterson.

A least in 2005 the Scots managed a flurry of late touchdowns by Andy Craig, Rory Lamont and Chris Paterson. The only problem was they were 3-38 down at half-time!

But enough. For, if Scotland’s recent overall record against Wales reads like a Timeform rating for a milk horse, then Ross Ford (nine appearances versus the Dragons, win ratio 11.11 per cent) believes a corner may have been turned when visiting France last weekend and they at least scored the only try, albeit in defeat.

What’s more, the try came from Dougie Fife, an Edinburgh colleague who has successfully managed to put the trauma of being part of a side thumped 51-3 last year in Cardiff on his international debut, behind him.

Ford sees a bright future for both the winger and the team in general.

“Dougie took his try well and is somebody who is neither up nor down, very level headed,” said Ford.

“The way he is he will go away and keep working and want to score more. That is the kind of boy he is, someone who works hard at what he does.

“Dougie has come up through the ranks at Edinburgh, come through the academy system and has played well.

“He’s a big part of the Edinburgh squad and will want to do for Scotland what he does for Edinburgh.”

If Fife can maintain at Test level the strike rate that has brought 15 tries from 50 starts for Edinburgh, then that will be highly acceptable and Ford even believes the concession of a soft penalty for throwing the ball away after he accidentally ran it into touch couldn’t take gloss off Fife’s rehabilitation to the Six Nations.

“It happens all the time and I don’t know why Nigel (ref Nigel Owens) took offence at that one,” said Ford. “It was an emotional act from Dougie at a quite intense time of the game. He was just frustrated and I don’t think there was any need to penalise it. That’s just the way it was, though. You get on with it.”

Nor is Ford too contrite about the general penalty count while admitting efforts always have to be made to stay on the referee’s wavelength.

“If you don’t have boys having a go ... there is a lot going on around you with boys flying in. With the best will in the world you can’t be squeaky clean the whole time,” said Ford.

“Sometimes you do things you don’t want to do, but everybody has to keep their mind on each other because it is quite an intense atmosphere. You have to keep talking and trying to get the referee aware. It does frustrate us, though, when we give away cheap penalties and although nobody ever goes out to give away silly penalties, we do need to be smarter in how we move around the contact area.”

As Ford prepares to equal Scott Murray’s record for a Scottish forward of ten appearances against Wales, the hooker admits his most recent memory of facing Wales was a low point in his entire 81-cap career.

Colleague and fellow Borderer Stuart Hogg was sent off after 23 minutes and Scotland went into that downward spiral.

“Nobody wants to be involved in games like that. It was embarrassing. It will maybe be brought up once this week, but as a group we have our own things we want to play well for. That will be more the focus this week.”

Was it the actual nadir? “It was up there.” Pressed further, he says with a grimace : “Aye”.

Added Ford: “When you play that amount of time with a man down boys are going to tire. We emptied our bench and Wales were very clinical. Not much went wrong for them and they finished a lot of things off.”

As for the previous Murrayfield encounter with Wales, the Scots were suckered in the scrums where streetwise opponents delayed engagement and milked penalties but, again, Ford is reluctant to suggest revenge is a motivation.

“Two years ago is a long time past,” he said. “There’s no point worrying and new rules have come in. We performed pretty well in the scrum last weekend so we’ll go out and give the referee what he wants and make sure we are dominant and that the referee sees us working with him.”