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Captain Ford must master soundbite, coin toss and unify team

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John Beattie | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Right, today we compile a list of the duties performed by an international rugby captain.

Kelly Brown was to be captain of Scotland, but because of his injury, Ross Ford steps in. Well done to him.

I can't pretend to know Ross that well other than to say that he seems a straightforward, hard-working and somewhat quiet bloke. He doesn't appear to be the kind of man who would throw dwarves around a bar, nor dive from a boat about to dock in harbour.

So here's my list of an international team captain's roles - and your job is to add to it.

First, is to be the master of the sound bite. I just don't understand how modern players answer all the questions they are posed so politely.

Ford (pictured) must now invent answers to questions along the lines of what it felt like when Andy Robinson called him, how he feels for Brown, how big an honour it is for him, who are the captains he admires, what it will feel like to run out on to Murrayfield as captain, will captaincy divert him from his play, and so it goes on.

That'll be the biggest task, answering questions from people like me.

That will extend to pre- and post-match questions and possible features about him for TV, radio and the newspapers.

And, guess what? All along, he can't afford to put a foot wrong. Any little slip will be reported. I watch these blokes being interviewed and they know they just can't get it wrong.

And that brings me on to his second important role: saying precisely nothing. He needs to have diversionary tactics ready, including lines about how England are a great side and how Scotland will be concentrating solely on themselves. The reality is that Scotland will be looking as hard as possible for hints as to how England will play for the next 10 days or so.

Thirdly, he must be a unifying force in the squad and the team and be an ally of Robinson's. There will be other players making calls on the pitch, but when it comes to team huddle, kick for touch or post, and something needing said then he's the man from now on.

Fourthly, he should practice tossing a coin as there's nothing worse than if your captain gets it wrong. Why, I don't know, but it makes a difference.

And lastly, there's the speech at the post-match function.

Now, you think that all sounds easy. But can you imagine being a captain and all you really want to do is play? Especially for a hooker who has hundreds of lineout options drifting through his head at any one time and needs to be able to throw a ball like a dart when his pulse is at 180 beats per minute.

The choice of Ford suggests to me that Al Kellock is not seen as a man who will play 80 minutes and so this is a great statement of faith in the man from Kelso.

Ford is already a British Lion and is developing into the marauding loose player we all hoped he would be.

The role of international captain possibly doesn't sound like much, but it has diverted great men in the past from their role on the pitch and I hope Ford retains the 80 minutes on the pitch as the most important.

Good luck to him. Ya beauty, the Six Nations are just around the corner.

So, what do you make of Ford as captain, who have been the great captains, and what other roles does the captain perform?


  • Comment number 1.

    Great choice of Captain.

    I feel for Kelly Brown but for the first time in years, it feels like Scotland can cope with a few injuries.

    This is the first time for a few years that the 6 Nations feels quite so unpredictable; a new French coach, a new (and inexperienced England coach with new players), an ageing Ireland side without Brian O'Driscoll and a Wales team without Shane Williams and which may have peaked at the World Cup.

    And Scotland.

    High and feeling good from relatively successful domestic form, strength in depth, young players and a hardened edge courtesy of Robinson and co.

    Ford needs to plough hard with quiet dignity. Forget the waffle and mind-games, he needs to inspire. And he will. And so will the rest of the team.


  • Comment number 2.

    Congratulations to Ross, although he has a tough job ahead - captain and hooker for 80 mins? Hope he has also had lessons in how to be a politician!

    Did I read it wrong but is he just the captain for the Scotland v England game?

    Also disappointed for Kellock as he is a great leader and had been in good form prior to this illness.

    However the captain is 1 man in a team of 15 of which there is no "I" in team.

    All the best to the Scotland team for the up and coming RBS 6 Nations.

  • Comment number 3.

    It may be that Al Kellock is far from guaranteed a start, never mind playing 80 minutes.

    I usually approach the 6 Nations with optimism, feeling, this time, things will be different. This this time, I'm hoping Robinson's selection policy will differ from usual, in that I don't groan when I see the team. I'm not optimistic because of his bizarre selection policy both for and during the World Cup. I was amazed he didn't take Laidlaw and that he didn't play Low at any time, but nothing surprised me more than not playing his captain in every game.

    We have obviously debated our preferred starting XV here before and I think Ford was everyone's choice in his position. He was singled-out for praise in the Sunday Times, along with Cross and Chunk, so all should be happy with the implied certainty of selection, but I will be very surprised (again) if Robinson plays him for the full 80 minutes against England. Robinson uses subs when they aren't needed and doesn't sometimes when they are, so it's anyone's guess, but the only certainty is it's intended Ford leads out the team at the start, nothing more. Good for him, he has every reason to be proud.

  • Comment number 4.

    Jeez John, you are asking the impossible. Do we need a media captain, popular captain or genuine team Captain. No doubt Ford will have had some SRU coaching re. the media and ' saying the right things '. Does he have the respect of the squad ? I suspect he has. So he is Captain. Use of caps intentional. Not a traditional captain's position but if the cap fits ....

    I do think that Robinson will be giving more thought to this. World cup debacle pretty much sums that up. The Captain has to play and Ford must be secure ?

    Great Captains ? David Sole walking out must be up there but look at the backroom. I go for Michael Vaughan of English cricket fame. I do think he made a difference.

    Either way, bring on the Six Nations ! I am optimistic but have witnessed many false dawns. This time ? Get in there !

  • Comment number 5.

    The right choice in my opinion. I would have had Kelly Brown as skipper if available, but with him being out, who is guaranteed to start other than Ford and Jacobsen?

    I think we've been most successful when our captains have been the quiet, do-my-talking-on-the-pitch type (Sole, Calder). So another quiet, well respected man in charge might be just what we need.

    Ford has been in great form this year as well and it's being noticed; Stuart Barnes said this week he's been the best hooker in the HC this year.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am happy with Ross Ford as captain. Hadn't considered him due to his quiet nature - but when you think about it he is one of very few nailed on starters.

    I am a bit relieved for Kelly Brown that circumstances have meant he cannot be captain. Kelly has a stammer and while it is undoubtedly something he can overcome and I'm sure has done plenty of media 'soundbites' I think it would place undue pressure on him to have to concentrate so much on overcoming this in front of cameras and assembled media several times a week.

    However, gutted he is missing out - as when fit he is one of the other ever presents (Richie Gray being the other) and Scotland can benefit from his leadership even if he is not labelled as captain.

    In reality I think we put a bit too much emphasis on our Captains. While there are plenty of decisions that must be made - and some crucial decisions in the final stages of a game (whether to kick a penalty for goal or to touch) - the vast majority is routine media work and a good leader will benefit a team on and off the pitch - even if he is not a designated captain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Am gutted for big Ali, wish young Ross well, only concern i have is that he does not use his phisical presence enough, and being captain might restrain him from shall we say dishing it out! and one role you missed out, Taking the Calcutta cup on a tour of the pubs, Come on Scotland,and good luck Ross

  • Comment number 8.

    when they picking england captain

  • Comment number 9.

    Once Brown was declared unfit then Ford is the most logical choice. Gutted for Brown as he is sheer class and was a definite shoe in! Ford has played superbly for Edinburgh and is one of the best hookers in 6Ns. He has really improved in the loose this season and should kick on given the confidence this will give him. He should be around for a number of years yet and will lead by example on the pitch! Now all we need is for him to influence AR and get his Borders mate selected for the 10 slot!

  • Comment number 10.

    Ross Ford is a great choice of captain. When you think about it, he is one of the most experienced in the squad.

    On a second note, John, please can you give your 15/22 vs England that you promised.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think Ford as captain is a good choice - he is in form and comes across as very much as many posters have noted as a "lead-by-example" type of bloke on the field. You could also hope that this appointment will mean he will play the majority of each match and not be strangely subbed at 60 minutes (along with one or both of the props) as per the point above!

    To me he gives more grunt in the pack than our alternatives, his throwing in is generally good and I think (no stats to back this up) he is less likely to give away stupid penalties than our other choices. I also think back to the Lions series and his performance in the last test match where he was bang on.

    I just have a feeling we have a chance to change the direction of our downward spiral of the last 10-odd years if we get selection right - this is the time and the match to put down our mark on this championship. Maybe stating the obvious but the positive feeling and momentum from a win against England would be massive especially a win based on running rugby that can be had from these players ... dreaming of possibilities!

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry but Ford is a classic example of what is wrong with the Scotland team, great physique but lacking rugby nous. I remember him running full pelt at a stationary Ma Nonu at Murrayfield. Nonu stopped him in 2 strides, did we see a change of angle or sidestep from Ford?, not a jot, straight into him. Clueless in rugby terms and I have never seen him as inspirational. To lead we need a man who can cross the gainline, sadly that narrows it down quite a lot, Brown could have been the man. As for Ford's experience, 50 odd caps, well so had Southwell and that will remain a mystery how that ever happened. There is no one else therefore you are selected, a criteria used far too often in Scottish rugby. I hope they are practicing their catching and passing at training as hitherto it has been embarrassing.

  • Comment number 13.

    I would prefer scott lawson in at hooker as he is better, and more consistent, at throwing in at lineouts. As for captain i'd go for rory lawson, as I believe him to be a far superior scrum half compared with the other options. He is also a natural leader and bosses the forwards well.

    I hope I am proved wrong, and ford has a cracking tournament.

  • Comment number 14.

    I've always thought that Ross Ford ran too upright or went to ground to easily, that is he didn't really make serious ground, but after the game on Sunday I've had to think again. Against some ruddy big players her made great ground, he has improved his body position massively and he always tried to create chances for his team-mates to run onto. From a born again Ross Ford fan...Here's Hoping!

  • Comment number 15.

    I recon he's picked Ford as captain as he's just about the most consistant performer this season and a regular for Scotland. Nearly every other position for Scotland has been swapping and changing over the last year or so. Also good to be picking other guys for captaincy, not for a way out for Robinson, but for giving each player picked - confidence to do better. I hope Geoff Cross starts with Allan Jacobsen for an edinburgh front row. Cross is an animal on the park and Jacobsen is a legend beyond belief!

  • Comment number 16.

    Really pleased for Ross, good solid player but too quiet on the park sometimes, that being said I'm really sorry for Al Kellock, I know he's unwell just now but for Glasgow and Scotland he's a great leader and a great lock forward but for some reason there has been a desire since Frank hadden to Andy Robinson to pay him no respect at all as a player....just look at the world cup

    I'm hopeful as always for the 6 nations but as this is season where it really is all to play for then an experienced captain like Al or Rory Lawson is whats needed.

    To finish off all I can say is Good Luck Ross and make us proud!!! C'mon Scotland

  • Comment number 17.

    Got to be honest and say that I feel this might be a dodgy decison.
    Ross has been brilliant since coming back from the WC. However it indicates that that previous selections as captain won't be on the pitch or am I giving something away.
    Ross has been brilliant since coming back fro the WC for Edinburgh but does that deserve the captaincy?
    Most people in Scotland have given Andy their full support. His comments in the press this weekend have made a rod for his own back.
    I believe Scotland do have the players to do well in the 6N's but this one may detract from the overall performance of Scotland. I'm sticking my neck out but there are players in Scotland who would think nothing of the captaincy and get on with it. Unfortunately think this will detract from Ross's excellent club season so far.
    Others out there may disagree and I honestly don't mind that but much as I respect Ross as a player it might be an undue distraction on him.

  • Comment number 18.

    I don't know Ross Ford as a player but I do hope Andy Robinson has had one of those genius moments when picking him. I'm completely sceptical over Andy's decision making but I really do hope we're competing for the championship this time as opposed to trying to not get the wooden spoon. again.

    Come on Scotland! Make this one count.

  • Comment number 19.

    Agree with what's been said with Ford and Brown along with Gray being the only people guaranteed a spot. Would have been happy with either Ford or Brown.

    It has been time for Ford to front up for a while now and I am sure this is what AR will have said and hopefully it pushes him on. He has a wealth of experience now with over 50 caps and a Lions tour under his belt. Also signed with the Borders at an early age.

    Time for him to be the player he promised to be and lead from the front. We are in a good position leadership wise now with quite a few former captains in the squad. The likes of Cusiter, Kellock and Lawson can do the talking leaving Ford to lead by example.

  • Comment number 20.

    A real shame for Kelly Brown, not just missing out on the captaincy but the tournament too. Hope to see him back for Scotland soon.

    As for Ross Ford, it's funny how some miseryguts always pop up on here with criticism of pretty much any player.
    He's obviously a weak link, not only being the thrower in one of Scotland's most reliable lineouts ever, but also a British Lion. The only Scot that got a game that tour I think! The main thing is that he's a brilliant scrummager, far more so than Lawson which is why he continually gets in ahead of him.

    I don't think he's really got that difficult a job. A Scotland team shouldn't be needing gee'd up for the Calcutta Cup. The early exit at RWC wasn't down to us being a million miles off the pace, rather just a couple of missed tackles away from beating both England and Argentina. That, along with Edinburgh's Heineken qualification and confidence in the squad should be high.

    He gets to pay tribute to an exemplary captain in Chris Paterson, who will no doubt work the crowd as the SRU lays on the after dark theatrics with the late kick off.
    A baying crowd who might have had an extra shandy due to it being a wee bit later will crank up the atmosphere.

    He just needs to hark back to that thrilling night in Auckland and say to the boys "We're good enough to beat them, we can beat them, let's get out there and do it".

  • Comment number 21.

    Lovely post - lots of these comments about For's game apparently come from people who haven't watched him this season at all.

    The best Scotland captains were Telfer, Hastings, Sole and Calder. I don't think that Gordon Brown was ever actually captain?

  • Comment number 22.

    A good selection in my mind fro AR given the injury to Kelly Brown. Ford is in good form , generally solid in his play for Scotland and is a definite first choice in his position. For at least one of these reasons almost all other contenders are out of the way. Kellock might be unlucky but he really can't command a regular starting place in the second row over Gray & Hamilton where we do select based on our aims for each individual game.

    Whichever of our 4 scrum halves we decide to play have experience as a captain to aid Ross on the pitch. However we can't have any of them as the captain in full as they aren't guaranteed seelction either over their competition (plus AR likes to sub the SH at usually the 50-60 minute mark!) and I was never a great believer in the co-capt experiment.

    Last 'great' captain for Scotland to my mind was Jason White another quiet man that went out there and lead by example. The captaincy can either inspire or weigh a player down I hope that with Ross it's the former.

    Good luck to him and the rest of the team when kick off comes round

  • Comment number 23.

    Firstly, as others have said, congratulations to Ross for being named captain.

    You asked what jobs could / should be added to your list. The obvious one that is missing is on pitch liaison with the ref. Alan Quinlan wrote an interesting article in the Irish Times called "Knowing how to play the referee is crucial". Now while there is a responsibility on all the players to read up on the dossiers they are given in the ref before the game, they also need to be street-wise enough to respond to how the ref is interpreting the laws around in particular contact and the ruck. It's the captains job to seek clarification as to why a penalty has been given, but also to communicate to his team how to "play" the ref.

    The captain also needs to be able to read the game, and either listen and act upon what his teammates are saying about the need to change the game plan given what the opposition are doing or change it because the weather has changed. Sometimes it looks like our teams play to a script do cannot adapt to what is in front of them. The captain needs to be able to gather the team and say "this is not working, here's what we're going to do ..."

    Lastly, the other unfortunate thing the captain may have to deal with is managing the team if there is a long on field break due to an injury. It was very interesting to watch the different approach taken between Glasgow and Edinburgh at the Murrayfield leg of the 1872 cup when R Lammont was being attending to on pitch. Realising this was going to take some time Kellock organised his troops and had them as a team running widths passing the ball etc., much as they would do before kick off. Meanwhile the Edinburgh guys were no where near as organised. The point I'm making is not about Kellock versus Ford for captain, but that the Glasgow squad managed the situation very well, kept loose and warm and sent a very visual signal to the crowd, and presumably to the opposition that they were focussed and that they were unified as a team. Let's hope Ford as Scotland captain is not faced with this situation and there are no serious long injury breaks, but it is something he as captain may need to respond to.

  • Comment number 24.

    personally I think Ford has enough on his plate concentrating on doing the simple duty of a hooker well, like throwing the ball in at a line out straight and to the Scottish jumper (which he appears to have regular difficulty with), without having the worries of captaincy.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think Ford is a reasonable choice for captain. Didn't he have Sean Fitzpatrick as a 'mentor' a couple of seasons ago? Is this scheme still on the go? If I was Ross, I would be on the phone to Fitzpatrick pronto - there is no better example to learn from.

  • Comment number 26.

    Interestingly enough England are nearing the naming of their own captain are suggestions are Dylan Hartley is up there for the position so you could have 2 Captains in therir first game literally going head to head.

  • Comment number 27.

    Well done Ross for getting the nod, fully deserved!

    Interesting debate on the hookers, I agree Scott is a better throw but Ross is superior in most other areas. In all honesty I think both should keep working at what they need to improve and keep the options open, Scott's father is a friend of my father and we all cheer him on when he gets his chance.

    The only hookers that captained that spring to mind are Ibanez and Wood?

    In a way I wonder if this might be a blessing in disguise, find a new designated "leader" on the pitch and see if a new approach may improve our fortunes. I agree with a post somewhere above that White was one of the last really great captains where he really inspired the lads to step up. To be fair Paterson did the same when he came on, regardless of whether he captained.

    Someone with the rugby nous of O'Driscoll is what we would all dream of I guess as a Captain. He is good at working with the refs, quick to smile and coax them round to easing up on the decision and inspires the back line to move. To be fair O'Connell does the equivelant for the forwards and does it well.

    Who knows this may be the boost of confidence that will bring Ross on to prove an even bigger force than he already is.

    Best of luck lads lets make a right job of it this year please!

  • Comment number 28.

    Very worried about this six nations. Robinson doesnt seem to have learnt from his mistakes in slection for the world cup.

    Edinburgh are enjoying an excellent run in the Heinekin cup and many of their players, including Ford, have showed up well in several exciting games against some of the lesser lights of European rugby.

    Unfortunately their league form has been poor with their scrum being dominated by many of their opponents, including Glasgow Warriors.

    However Ford has minimal experience as a captain ( captained Edinburgh twice) and has been known to have a bad day throwing at the lineout.

    i fear the additional pressure of captaincy will have a bad effect on his play.
    Usually Al kellock is our go to line out man which would help Ford settle it to the game.
    However this decision means it looks like it may be Hamilton (on excellent form for Gloucester but not as good a middle lienout jumper as Al) and Gray (having a relatively quiet season so far for glasgow) will be the starting locks.

    With Brown missing through injury and the spectre of the worst scrummaging prop in the 6 nations in the form of Al Dickinson waiting to come off the bench the omens are not good.

    If we lose our opening match then i think another wooden spoon and possible whitewash are on the cards.

  • Comment number 29.

    Ross Ford is a great choice and, as everyone pretty much everyone else has said, one of only a small handful of players guaranteed his place – Chunk and Gray the only others.

    Re hookers as captains, it’s hardly unprecedented – many of the very best captains have played in that position:

    Sean Fitzpatrick
    John Smit
    Raphael Ibanez
    Keith Wood
    John Pullin
    Anton Oliver
    Andy Dalton
    Colin Deans
    Karl Mullen
    And even… Gordon Bulloch

  • Comment number 30.


    The loss of Brown as a player is undeniable. We need him on the park. He does have a slight stammer. At the risk of moving off topic this is rather important.

    I have a stammer. I was taught to think my way around ' difficult ' words. I have spent my entire adult life, now in my fifties , thinking at least one sentence ahead to advance my point. I still entirely stall if asked a question where the obvious answer is a no-no word. I have learned a mindset to say my own name. Kelly Brown does not need this. Believe me, it is extremely stressful.

    I have no idea how Brown handles his afflication or how severe it is. Were I in his shoes I would far rather do my thing outwith the spotlight.

  • Comment number 31.

    He needs to make the right decisions. When to take the points and when to go for lineout, if he gets that right everything else is secondary.


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