Stuart McInally: Edinburgh hooker determined to oust 'buddy' Ross Ford

By Bryn PalmerBBC Scotland Sport
Stuart McInally carries the ball forward for Edinburgh against Scarlets
McInally has had to make do with a bench role so far this season

Edinburgh's Stuart McInally admits he has followed Ross Ford's lead in a bid to dislodge his "good buddy" from the number two shirt for club and country.

McInally, 26, has had to settle for a bench role so far this season despite starting Scotland's last two Tests, in Japan, when Ford was injured.

But he will get a first start of the campaign away to Munster on Saturday.

"I just have to respect the man I have ahead of me in the starting jersey at the moment," he told BBC Scotland.

"I think the world of him. We get on really well and he has taught me a lot over the last few years, and not just about throwing or scrummaging.

"I see how hard he works in terms of the extra stuff he does and how early he comes in to do his extra fitness or rehab.

"I have realised that I needed to work as hard as that, if not harder. And it is hard to work harder than Ross, because he works exceptionally hard.

"Certainly over the last couple of years I have upped my attention to the little things. I come in a bit earlier to do a bit extra here and there because I know the challenge there is to get ahead of him.

"He has got 99 caps for his country, he is an exceptional player. But obviously I want that jersey, and I am just so eager to get out there and play."

McInally has won nine Scotland caps in the last 13 months - six off the bench - after making the positional switch from flanker to hooker three years ago.

Saturday's trip to Munster's atmospheric Thomond Park - a challenge he describes as "right up there" in Pro12 terms - brings back mixed emotions. "Playing there has been enjoyable, but sometimes it has been a nightmare as well," he recalls.

Ross Ford in action for Edinburgh
Ross Ford, 32, has won 99 caps for Scotland and one for the Lions

Two years ago Alan Solomons' side earned a one-point victory at the storied stadium on the first day of the season, but McInally was not involved - on the field anyway. "I was helping with the commentary for BBC Alba, so I was admiring it from their studio, unfortunately."

In 2012 McInally was in the back row when Edinburgh travelled there for a group fixture in the old Heineken Cup, the season after they reached the semi-finals.

"I think we were 6-0 down at half-time, and taking it right to them," he said. "We ended up losing 33-0. It was awful. I hate those moments. That is what drives me and motivates me to play well because I hate losing. I will be doing everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen again."

To avoid a repeat scenario on Saturday, McInally - who is co-captain of Edinburgh this season along with Grant Gilchrist - is in no doubt where the team's priorities lie after last Friday's disappointing home defeat by Leinster.

"We just need to go there and put right the wrongs from last week," he added. "Our defence is nowhere near where we need to be as a standard - that has been made abundantly clear by Peter (Wilkins), our defence coach.

"The players take that to heart and we've been working hard this week to get better. There has been a lot of chat, but the proof will be in the pudding when we get out there, and how we react. I just want us to be really, really physical, and then I will be happy."