Scotland’s most-capped rugby player Ross Ford has hung up his boots and will take on a role developing the next generation of young players from his native Border country.
Long known as Scotland’s most avid trainer and gym rat as well as winning 110 caps as hooker dating from 2004 until his final test at Suva in Fiji in 2017, Ford will stay within Scottish Rugby in a natural role as a strength and conditioning coach with the Fosroc Scottish Rugby academy, focusing on players in the Borders region.
He follows a number of recent distinguished Scottish retired players translating to S&C work. Alasdair Strokosch has the role at Edinburgh while anther Scotland centurion, wing Sean Lamont, also works with developing players.
Ford was converted from a back rower to hooker early in his career but was a mainstay for first the Border Reivers, then Edinburgh Rugby and also Scotland for 16 years.
He made his Scotland debut as a replacement against Australia in the 2004 autumn tests, eventually passing Chris Paterson’s record mark of caps. 110 international appearances at the coal face in the front row is pretty much unique in European rugby.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “I’ve had a long career in the sport and have been able to represent my country at the highest level, playing in a lot of great places around the world.
“I’ve met some characters along the way and overall just feel very lucky to have played a sport that I love and make a living in the process.
“I never had any specific targets in mind, (reaching 110 caps) just kind of crept up on me. I recognise it as a big achievement but it’s just something that came hand-in-hand with playing the sport.
“Mossy [Chris Paterson] got over 100 and Sean [Lamont] is up over 100 as well. I never set out to get to get certain number or beat them. I just kept playing because I was enjoying it.”
Moving into S&C work is certainly a natural transition. Always the Scotland’s squad’s hardest trainer, Ford worked himself so assiduously that he famously was once actually forced by the national team physios to stop in fear of burning himself out.
“I always enjoyed the S&C side of things. It was always a big part of my game and it was something I was good at,” he said.
“Later in my career I took a big interest in it and it became something I wanted to do after I finished playing, so I was really keen when this opportunity came up, especially being a Borders lad as well.
“There’s a lot of talent here so if I can help them develop and make this one part of their game world class then, hopefully, they’ll come through and go on to bigger and better things.
“I’m looking forward to getting in there and passing on some of the things I’ve learned and show a level of work ethic they can follow and stand them in good stead to be the best player they can be, setting the tone wherever they go.
“I’d like to think I’m in a good place to pass a lot of that on so it’s quite an exciting time. It gives me something to go into with a lot of energy and will allow me to keep getting a buzz from the game.”
Meanwhile as one player departed Edinburgh Rugby the club secured the experienced scrum-half they’ve been looking for to share time with Henry Pyrgos in Nic Groom, from the Lions Super Rugby squad in South Africa.
The 29-year-old has also played for Northampton and the Stormers in his career, and played in all but three of the Lions’ Super Rugby campaign this season.
Head coach Richard Cockerill was delighted to have brought Groom to Edinburgh.
“Nic is a really intelligent player who has consistently been a standout performer during his time in Super Rugby and the English Premiership,” he said.
“That experience in the number nine jersey is obviously key, but Nic’s ability to snipe and create opportunities in and around the fringes brings a different dynamic to our squad, while his addition clearly creates competition for places.
“We’ve been looking at Nic for a while now, so it’s great to finally welcome him to Edinburgh. We’re really hopeful that he can make a strong impact in the seasons to come.”