Ross Ford can still get to 200 games played for Edinburgh if they reach the Guinness PRO14 play-offs, and the veteran hooker looks likely to play every part in the season finale as the capital club chase down a postseason slot.
The man with Scotland’s record number of caps – 110 – is one of seven players announced yesterday to be leaving the club at the end of the season after 11 years, and to date 197 games.
The 34-year-old is not retiring as yet and his plans are unknown even to head coach Richard Cockerill, who is keen to use Ford’s vast experience in the run-in, starting with Ulster at BT Murrayfield on Friday night.
“It’s a nice place to be at when a guy with Fordy’s experience can be in your squad and he’s played well to be fair,” said the coach.
“He is looking at his options, around whether that means to play on, what options there are, what other possibilities there are outside of playing. He has a lot to offer both on and off the field so hopefully he will get something that suits his ambitions and family life and all those things.
“He is the most capped Scotsman of all time, 110 caps should be respected. He is a good man and works very hard. But there comes a natural time when we’ve got to evolve the squad and look to the future.”
With Dave Cherry and Cameron Fenton currently injured, Ford will be playing for perhaps the last time at Murrayfield on Friday, but typically he’s not making any kind of fuss and declined interviews yesterday, although there is expected to be some sort of presentation at the game.
Also leaving the club will be long-tenured players in wing Tom Brown and scrum-half Sean Kennedy, as well as already announce departures in Allan Dell, Nathan Fowles and Senitiki Nayalo. More of a surprise is that Scotland back rower Luke Hamilton, after only one season interrupted mostly by injury, is also leaving.
“Luke was offered a contract but he declined it because we could not agree terms,” added Cockerill. “He hasn’t played since Christmas because of concussion, and obviously it seems to work out that you’ve either got no back rowers and or you’ve got all of them fit.
“There’s some stiff competition there. Where does he get in that back row, that’s the quandary.”
In the meantime Cockerill is not overly concerned with Ulster’s setpiece disaster in Glasgow on Friday night as they come to Murrayfield with both sides having to get the win to keep the play-off hopes on track.
“It was very good against Leinster the week before, and they should have won,” he pointed out.
“They have had a tough run, they have been to Dublin, Glasgow and now come to us. They need to win and we need to win.
“We are always going to take teams on in the set piece whether it is Munster, Ulster or anybody else. They know what is coming and we know what is coming. It just comes down to who does it best.
“If (Rory) Best and (Iain) Henderson are back for them, they are good players, great leaders and British Lions.
“I am not relying on them fielding a second team to win. They will bring their best team and we will put our best team out.”