The Captains’ Captain

For three months last year I locked myself away and watched every single episode of the Sopranos. I was hooked. Tony, the capo di tutti capi, was a masculine force. He took charge, but he was willing to delegate. His ‘industry’ worked because everyone had a specific role and loyalty meant something. Contribution was expected.

He was a fictional character, sure, but he represented everything you want to be as a leader. Firm. Fair. Loyal. Battle hardened. Decisive. The captain of all captains.

Now I’m not saying Ford will be underhanded –far from it –but he could be just like this. He will have a number of captains at his disposal come game day. He can get by with a little help from his friends.

Ford is the strong silent type. A journalist once told me that he encouraged an opposition hooker to strike Ford early in a match because it would fire him up, but he is a smart player. He picks his battles. When he takes it to the mattresses it is with a direct drive and volume of attacks. His mind sharpens and he returns the favour, but in a different way.

Perhaps the captaincy will make Ford this kind of leader for 80 minutes. Andy Robinson certainly feels it can. Most importantly, though, Ford’s supporting captains can do as he would want them to.

He will run the scrum, of course. In the lineout, though, he needs someone on the ground; a consigliere. He needs someone to pick a spot for him. He needs a player willing to back his throws and give him favourable targets. He also needs a defensive marshal and a stand-off willing to move to the beat that he and Robinson dictate.

Ford is fortunate. He has a number of deputies, familiar faces, willing to back him up. He has Kellock, Gray, Barclay, Cusiter, Blair, Lawson, Sean Lamont, Morrison and Jacobsen. He has a host of personalities attuned with the cause. He should have no problem with the squad understanding his messages, or the plan put forth by the management.

This, it would seem, is the crux. The team need to be tight and in synch. Ford has to hold them all together. He has to make all of his deputies feel confident and vital. They are vital. Ford can only represent so much, and it is getting closer to the time when talking to TV folk and sitting down with press mobs is not important.

The game is important. The team is important. The deputies are important.

Big games bring big noise. Clapping collisions and songs ring around stadiums. Everyone shouts that little bit more when they realign. Opposition attackers are called out that little bit more aggressively by would-be tacklers. You urge people more. There is more hard breathing and swearing as contact is met again.

In this heady environment Ford will have to keep his cool and he cannot rally the team at every breakdown or set-piece. He needs supporting captains for that. He needs his 9, whichever one is selected, to collar him and his forwards, screaming at all of them to career round the corner for the team. He needs his 10 to put him in the right place to make his calls. He needs to be pushed himself.

Al Kellock said the other day that being captain is a great honour. It is also true that a captain will be honoured in his role, being supported and worked for. With so many other captains Scotland are now in the privileged position where they can use experience and support to carry them through one of rugby’s most testing fixtures.

Ford will lead everyone, and everyone will strive to repay his support in kind.

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

2 comments on “The Captains’ Captain

  1. InsideArm on

    I hope you are right about Ross Ford but at the same time have ‘that sinking feeling’.
    Ross is not captain of his club. His club captain, Greig Laidlaw, is playing, and captaining, out of his skin. That Greig has not been appointed captain of Scotland suggests that he is not going to get picked at all. That fills me with dread.
    In recent past competitions including the RWC dodgy Robinson’s selections did not worry me too much because I did not think we had any chance of winning even if he got them right. But for the first year in an age I am really hopeful that we could do some real damage and score hatfulls of tries. But only if we get the selection right, and that means Laidlaw at ten (and someone who passes at 12).

  2. Borderman on

    I couldn’t agree more with Inside Arm. It can only be hoped that Greig Laidlaw comes on as early as possible in the Calcutta Cup match. I have been watching his game in all Edinburgh’s recent matches and quite simply I reckon he is one of the best Scrum halfs or Stand offs I have ever seen pull on the dark blue jersey of Scotland. His recent form has been exemplary , his tackling, his goal kicking and his attack mindset is a joy to watch. Greig has something to prove too after his sad omission from the recent World Cup ! What I note in his game is the direction he gives all the players around him and they respond to him . He is a leader in every sense of the word. He has so much versatility and more ability compared to one dimensional Parks in my opinion. I see a Scotland win but only if Laidlaw gets the call early enough. Scotland the Brave !

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