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Ford never in danger of being hooked by Solomons

Ross Ford's stock may have fallen in the international market, but the Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons is convinced the hooker still adds capital value on the domestic front.

Ross Ford has been a classy performer for Edinburgh says coach Alan Solomons. Picture: SNS
Ross Ford has been a classy performer for Edinburgh says coach Alan Solomons. Picture: SNS

Ford lost his place in the Scotland starting line-up after wayward lineout performances in the RBS 6 Nations Championship matches with Ireland and England. However, as the 29-year-old's performances for Edinburgh this season have seen him play at a consistently high standard, Solomons suggested the malaise that has afflicted him on the Test stage has been collective rather than individual in nature.

In light of which, the coach showed no hesitation in offering Ford a two-year contract extension that will keep him at Edinburgh until the summer of 2016.

It might be fair to speculate that the player's international displays were never going to create a stampede for his signature anywhere else, but Solomons believes that the underlying class of the player who was Scotland's only Test Lion in South Africa in 2009 is undiminished.

"Ross has been an integral part of what we're trying to achieve at Edinburgh," said Solomons. "He has played exceptionally well for us this season and we are absolutely delighted that he has committed to the club for another two years. I think he will make an invaluable contribution going forward.

"The opening two games of the Six Nations were tough for Scotland. They played Ireland away, a very strong side, and then England wasn't a good afternoon. When the team as a whole is not performing as one would like, then that impacts upon individuals."

Confirmation that Ford is staying put means that others on the Edinburgh hooking roster are likely to be looking for new employers before long. With Aleki Lutui, George Turner, James Hilterbrand and Alun Walker at the club, and with former flanker Stuart McInally honing his front-row skills on loan to Bristol, Solomons acknowledged that the club does look a touch overstaffed in that area right now. "We've got to look at things carefully," he said.

All in due time. Of more pressing concern is tonight's RaboDirect PRO12 match with Ulster at Murrayfield.

The visitors hold third place in the table, and look well set to clinch a play-off place, but they are keen to go higher and secure home advantage at the semi-final stage, well aware that few sides relish a trip to their Ravenhill fortress. As a consequence, Mark Anscombe, the Ulster coach, has picked a more powerful side than might have been expected in the aftermath of the Six Nations.

Having coached Ulster between 2000 and 2003, and having made his permanent home there since, Solomons has a particular interest in tonight's opposition. "I'm delighted for Ulster and how things have gone, from strength to strength," he said. "Like all sides, they've had times when they took a step back, but they have moved forward. They now have a real prospect of winning both the Heineken Cup and the pro12.

"That's their ambition and they are one of the top sides in Europe, so this is a great challenge for us. The players are really looking forward to playing against a top team with quality players."

Solomons was also quick to point out that Ulster's success over the past couple of seasons has been built on a handful of foreign imports levering up the standards of home-developed players. His observation was clearly designed to invite comparisons with his own strategy at Edinburgh, but Ulster's recruitment of players such as Ruan Pienaar and John Afoa suggests they might have been aiming just a little higher than those who control the Murrayfield purse strings.

Dougie Fife, who endured as difficult a debut as any player has ever gone through in Scotland's hammering by Wales last weekend, is included on the right wing, but Matt Scott, Dave Denton, Greig Laidlaw and Geoff Cross are all rested. Solomons said he had no problem with having to go without his Test players, suggesting that Gloucester-bound scrum-half Laidlaw may be given an extended time on the sidelines to allow Grayson Hart more game time.

Tonight's game will also be Edinburgh's final appearance at Murrayfield this season as preparatory work for the installation of the stadium's new pitch is set to begin tomorrow. Eighth in the PRO12 table, they have an uphill climb to clinch the top-six slot they will probably need to gain a place in next season's Heineken Cup.

Their two remaining home games are against Cardiff Blues and Munster, and it is almost certain they will take place at Meggetland, where Edinburgh enjoyed a successful outing against Ospreys last month.

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