THAT Scottish cap record is in sight now for Ross Ford, and the way he is playing he is likely to establish a dauntingly high tally of his own before he finally hangs up his boots. Having been named to start against Italy instead of Fraser Brown, the Edinburgh hooker will win his 107th cap tomorrow, just two shy of Chris Paterson’s total. Sean Lamont, with 105, is the only other Scottish Test centurion, while the closest member of the current squad is Richie Gray with 64.

With his 33rd birthday coming up next month, Ford has seen some bad times as well as good in his time as an international, and of the five Scotland coaches he has served under there have perhaps been one or two he does not remember too fondly. When it comes to Vern Cotter, however, Ford is in no doubt about the positive impact the made has had on the national team, and on his own game.

“I have a massive respect for Vern,” he said yesterday. “He’s a great man and he’s been a very good coach for us. He’s made me look at the way I play, helped me improve. He’s definitely a very good coach - massive respect for the man.”

Ford also has a healthy respect for Italy, having first played against them in 2007 and been on both the losing and winning sides in that and many subsequent matches. “They’re confrontational: they like to disrupt games,” he said. “You have to be very disciplined with them.

“You can’t give them easy access into the game by giving them penalties. Then they get their scrum and maul going and if they get a sniff they’re always there or thereabouts, so you have to be disciplined and break them down.

“And be aware that it will take time to break them down. I think in this championship they’ve been leading or within a score at half-time, so it does take time to break them down. They’ve developed the way they are trying to play. The overriding thing is being patient and being disciplined with the ball and even more without it.”

However, the fact that Italy have been so close at half-time yet lost all four games so far suggests they have to throw so much into the early stages of games that they run out of steam. And if that happens tomorrow, Ford is sure that Scotland’s backs will exploit it.

“The way the back line has been playing, they’ve scored some really good tries. Hoggy [Chris Hogg] has been phenomenal. Knowing that we have the likes of that, if it gets broken up or if he eyes a gap he’s going to go for it.

“He can create these opportunities for us and give us that cushion, or a break in the game that maybe turns it. You know you have to keep working the whole time to create these opportunities for the backs. It’s the way that we handle ourselves in the set piece and in the forward exchanges, in tight, that creates these opportunities for the backs and allows them to express themselves and finish things off well.”