Sunday 21 January 2018

Scotland must clean up Six Nations act, says Ross Ford

France's centre Mathieu Bastareaud (3rd R) and France's flanker Thierry Dusautoir (C) vie for the ball with Scotland's lock Richie Gray (L) during the Six Nations at the Stade de France
France's centre Mathieu Bastareaud (3rd R) and France's flanker Thierry Dusautoir (C) vie for the ball with Scotland's lock Richie Gray (L) during the Six Nations at the Stade de France

Andy Newport

Ross Ford admits Scotland must clean up their act or face further heartache following their self-inflicted pain in Paris.

The hooker and the rest of his Dark Blue colleagues blew a great chance to end their 16-year wait for a victory in the French capital on Saturday as they lost 15-8.

While Scots sub Dougie Fife scored the only try of the match, Les Bleus were able to claim an RBS 6 Nations opening weekend win as Camille Lopez booted over five of the six penalties handed to him.

Wales are next up at BT Murrayfield for Vern Cotter's men and Ford knows Scotland must be on their best behaviour.

The Edinburgh front-rower said: "It is frustrating but no-one actively looks to go in and give away stupid penalties.

"At times when you are really under the pump there is a professional way of looking at it, when giving away penalties can be useful. But that's not what Saturday was about at all.

"It was just boys trying their best. It's not a closed skill, there are so many outside factors like boys coming in from different angles and the physicality of it all. It's hard to be squeaky clean all the time.

"You are put under a lot of pressure and sometimes you end up in the wrong position. You try your best to get out of the way and not to give away an infringement but for all the will in the world, it is going to happen at times.

"That sort of thing let France into the game and we will need to be a lot sharper this weekend.

"How do we stop that indiscipline? That's a tough yin. You don't want to be standing back, you want to effect the game. But you have to have a certain degree of discipline in how hard you go at it.

"We know if we do give anything away, they have Leigh Halfpenny ready to punish us. He's a good kicker who hits high percentages. They are all like that at international level and we found out the hard way on Saturday what can happen if you give them chances to put points on the board."

The Dragons' last visit to Edinburgh saw South African referee Craig Joubert award a world record 18 kickable penalties as the home side struggled to get to grips with the scrum in a 28-18 defeat two years ago.

Former head coach Scott Johnson admitted afterwards he had blisters on his fingers from "typing e-mails to the IRB".

The rules have been changed since then but Ford is content to let referees call the game as they see it.

"The referee has got a big factor in it," he said. "You have got to be aware of how he looks at it - what are his pet hates - and make sure you work along with him.

"There is supposed to be consistency among how they all view things. But the refs are all different and see things in different ways. As long as it is consistent through individual games then that's fine. I wouldn't want to see them all being robots doing things by the book."

There was further agony for the Scots 12 months later when they travelled to Cardiff in the final game of last year's championships.

A 51-3 defeat was their heaviest ever Six Nations thrashing but with the likes of Blair Cowan, Finn Russell, Mark Bennett - who all made their tournament debuts in Paris - adding a freshness to the squad, Ford does not believe revenge will be on his team-mates' minds.

He said: "It's never good to be involved in something like that. I'm sure it will be brought up at some point but it's not a massive driving factor.

"We've got a good wee thing with the squad now and everybody pushing each other on. That's what keeps the standard high, not previous results.

"In some ways it feels like a new squad with so many fresh faces in it. I think it's really good fun to be involved with these guys' first few games and to feed off it.

"These guys have not been through quite as much as I have, but the enthusiasm for it is great to see. They couldn't really give two hoots about what they are coming up against. Their belief in their ability is brilliant.

"The whole squad can feed off that. No matter how many Tests you have played or what age you are you can use that enthusiasm and it's showing in our recent games."

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