Name: Ross William Ford
Age: 26 (23 April 1984)
My mum was the rugby player in the family, but living in the Scottish Borders – a hotbed of the game – it was only a matter of time before I gave it a go. My earliest memories are of watching players like Alan Tait, John Jeffrey and Roger Baird on the field for Scotland. I knew I wanted to do the same.
So many internationals played in the Borders then and rugby’s the main sport in Kelso. Borders rugby is so strong it’s a shame there’s not a professional team based there, but there are a few Borders boys at Edinburgh.
I followed my friends to my local club in Kelso at around six or seven. Everyone in our area seemed to play and, although it was full contact from the start, I took to it – that was my favourite part of the game. I tried out football the week before, but enjoyed the rugby so much more and knew it was the game for me straightaway. Rugby suited me a lot better, as it did my brother.
Being big in my early years certainly ensured that I enjoyed it! Back then it was eight-a-side so I played prop, although it was almost like having eight backs on the field – scrums were only a way to restart the game, rugby league-style, with the ball in play pretty much all the time.
The ultimate attraction for me was playing in the blue jersey of Scotland, rather than having a career. I remember watching the Five Nations on television and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do’. Bryan Redpath went to Kelso High School before me, but it was my local school so I went there because of that rather than for the rugby.
Turning professional I was moved to hooker from the back row as my coach Tony Gilbert said it would be better suited to my size and ability. By that time I wasn’t big enough for a six or eight, or quick enough to play seven, so the move happened. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t change position, even as a teenager. I did it with a lot of perseverance and hard work, and if you need to, so can you. If you want it bad enough, you’ll keep doing it.
Learning the technical side of being a hooker, after playing for so many years in the back row, was certainly a challenge. My family and coaches were very important at that time because they were so supportive, encouraging me to stick at it. For hours on end I’d stand there trying to hit a mark I’d put on a rugby post with a ball to learn how to throw in.
If I’m honest I didn’t realise that there were so many different types of throw. I found scrummaging a lot easier to pick up, and it took me a couple of years to get even semi-good at the throwing in. It was dark at times and it left me wondering whether I’d made the right move as I was finding it difficult and having a few nightmare games. But I kept at it and gradually it got better.
My first cap came after I’d been playing hooker for three or four years – it took time to make the transition because I was finding it difficult. I was frustrated at times, but I knew I wanted to play for Scotland and that’s what drove me on.
The philosophy I’ve always adopted is that ‘If you’re not doing the hard work someone else will be’. I’m competing with so many different people, I know they’ll be out there doing that extra session, so I need to as well.
Andy Robinson was the coach when I joined Edinburgh from Borders so the move worked out pretty well for me. It was good for my development. A winning mentality is what Andy brings – he’s had a big impact in Scotland. He asks players to improve every day. He wants us to focus on making small improvements, which can lead to much more.
The players pick up on the fact Andy is mentally very strong and he has helped us win a number of tight games. I’ve learned so much from him.
It’s a huge honour to represent my country, especially in the Six Nations. It’s still a very special tournament for me and everyone involved with the Scotland team. We enjoy the winning and working hard.
DID YOU KNOW? Ross Ford was Andy Robinson’s first signing when he moved north of the border to take charge of Edinburgh. A passionate Borders player, Ford still lives in Kelso and coaches the town’s U18 side. Ford made his Scotland debut in 2004 after mastering the art of throwing in.
This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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