Ton-up Ross Ford eyes Scotland caps record
Hooker Ross Ford admits he is not satisfied with becoming Scotland's first ever ton-up forward on Saturday and wants to eclipse Chris Paterson's cap record.
The 32-year-old Edinburgh front-rower will celebrate his 100th Dark Blues appearance when the Scots kick-off their autumn Test campaign against Australia at BT Murrayfield.
His achievement is bettered only by Scotland's previous centurions, 109-cap full-back Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont, who has collected 105 playing in the centres and on the wing.
But Ford's tally is all the more remarkable given the hazardous scraps his position at the heart of the pack forces him to confront.
And having managed to avoid serious injury in the 12 years that have passed since his debut - coincidentally against this weekend's opponents - he believes there is no reason to put a time limit on his Scotland career.
"It is a massive honour," said Ford. "There is Mossi (Paterson) and Sean who have gone before me and have that milestone. To be the first forward to get to that point representing my country is a great experience and hopefully it will continue for a while longer yet.
"I work hard for what I do and have enjoyed every cap I have. We're looking forward to the game on Saturday.
"Retirement is not on the horizon yet. I have a few more years left in me.
"Can I beat the record? Hopefully. I feel in good shape. If I'm playing well enough I'll keep putting my hand up for selection. It is up to me to make that happen for future games and that is something I'm willing to do."
Ford's decade and more of nous on the international stage will be invaluable to the Scots as they take on the Wallabies this weekend.
He will be joined in a new-look front row for the Wallabies clash by debutant Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson - who won his only previous cap against England last year from the bench - but head coach Vern Cotter reckons Ford is just the main to guide the fresh-faced props through such a thorough examination of their talents.
He said: "Fordy's been a stand-out performer for Scotland and his experience will be vital for the young front row we've got going out this weekend.
"It's nice to see an old head like that playing his 100th game putting his arms round one guy who's playing his first and another guy who's just had his second. And that's what the game is about, bringing these people together. "
Edinburgh flanker Hamish Watson and Stormers centre Huw Jones will also start a Test match for the first time after being named in Cotter's line-up.
It gives a raw edge to his selection but the return of the talismanic stand-off Finn Russell - who missed the summer tour to Japan with a head injury - is a welcome boost.
Jones has just 22 minutes of international action to his name after taking Russell's place on the Far East trip but Cotter hopes the 22-year-old's experience of taking on most of the Aussies' big names in Super Rugby will help the Edinburgh-born back find his feet at Murrayfield.
"He knows a lot of those players, he's played against them," said the head coach. "That did weigh into it. He's been sharp and played well in the Currie Cup.
"He's at the top of his game and offers us something that perhaps we haven't got that may surprise them if they haven't looked at him. He's trained exceptionally well and fitted in very quickly against Japan. He's a good character."
Saturday's Edinburgh showdown offers Scotland the opportunity to exact revenge on Michael Cheika's team for their controversial quarter-final defeat at last year's World Cup.
The Scots were undone on that occasion by referee Craig Joubert's late blunder but former head coach Ian McGeechan reckons the side which has travelled from Down Under do not offer the same threat as they did 12 months ago.
He claims Australia have "regressed" in the forward department b ut that is not a view Cotter shares.
The Kiwi insisted: "T hey've improved. At scrums they're sometimes right on the legal limit of what you're allowed to do. But they're world-class athletes.
"They have intensified their forward play and look to play off the set-piece. They want to play helter-skelter rugby too but I think it will be a set-piece battle on Saturday.
"Are we thinking about last year? It's one of those traps where you can fall into, the principle of revenge. So no it's another game. There were things that we took from that game that we felt we could use to become better and improve and we've taken heed of that and tried to develop."