WHEN a player of proven international pedigree is at the top of his game in club colours but his form slumps whenever he pulls on his country's jersey, you may wonder where the blame lies.
Is it down to him, or what is going on around him?
Step forward Ross Ford. Had you asked any Edinburgh supporter a month ago, they would have been encouraged by the indications that, under the new club regime, Ford was starting to show more of the style which made him an automatic choice for Scotland and earned him a British & Irish Lions call-up.
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Two Scotland matches later and Ford has become the player most likely to be dropped from the national team. From his point of view it might seem ominous that he was the only player who started in the RBS 6 Nations defeat by England to then be released to play for his club over the weekend, playing an hour for Edinburgh as their revival hit the buffers in Connacht.
For those who were not there - that is pretty much every Scot apart from the handful of players, coaches and support staff on Edinburgh duty - the temptation would be to assume that Ford is responsible for his club's forwards spending almost the entire match under the cosh. It would be a belief challenged by Grant Gilchrist, who had a ringside seat for Ford's performance since he was the main line-out target and part of the power behind Ford in the scrum.
Typically, then, Gilchrist will back Ford all the way. "I don't think we lost a line-out after he came on," said the Edinburgh lock. "I think we lost one earlier but not after Ross arrived. He was throwing really well, which is never easy in Galway with the wind.
"I think he has been doing it for us throughout the season; we have not struggled in that area. I imagine it was good for him to get a game under his belt. In terms of the line-out it was certainly good for him."
Gilchrist was in close proximity to Ford's work in the scrum as well and it was clear again that, after early problems, it did stabilise once Ford's 18-stone bulk was brought to the fray.
Which leads one to question: what changes when he plays for Scotland? From the sidelines, it is hard to be sure. It may simply be the case that the smaller margins for error in the international arena expose Ford's fallible technique. It is still more likely that new line-out drills are breaking down under pressure or that the line-out management is faulty, with the throws being called at the wrong times. Whatever it is, Ford can find Gilchrist reliably, so there is an argument for pairing the two in Scotland colours.
None of which did anything to ease Edinburgh's frustration at losing in Ireland. The defeat was made even harder to swallow by the way the Scots resisted the Galway wind to lead 7-3 at half-time. That came after Nick De Luca, the centre trying to play his way back into Scotland contention, created a solo break to lay on a try for Roddy Grant, which was converted by Carl Bezuidenhout.
Instead of cashing in after the break when the elements were more favourable, though, Edinburgh's indiscipline at the breakdown cost them a string of penalties and, when Cornell Du Preez was the unlucky player to be sinbinned, Michael Swift, the veteran Connacht lock, ploughed his way over the line. Add in penalties for Craig Ronaldson and Dan Parks and the Irish did enough to win.
"It was a pretty frustrating game," Gilchrist added. "We were into a strong wind in the first half and did not see a lot of the ball but defended pretty well. Then with the wind in the second half we kept giving the ball away stupidly."
The defeat leaves Edinburgh eighth in the league, but still with a game in hand over the teams immediately above them. If there is reconciliation in European competition, though, they need to climb at least to sixth.