EVEN for those who have fully embraced the notion of kick-off times for sporting events being something of a moveable feast, the 5.20pm start to Scotland – South Africa last weekend had a few heads being scratched. But, such is the way of the world.

Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford is one current player who can recall the good old days – “three o’clock on a Saturday, two when the clocks changed” – but even he has changed his ways in the professional era, with kick-offs governed by TV, travel and occasion. Still, he admits there was a bit of bemusement in the Edinburgh ranks when they were greeted with a 5.30pm start to their Pro14 game against Dragons at Rodney Parade today.

“There will be a reason for it – but you are better not asking,” said Ford, Scotland’s record caps winner with 110, who admits to having veteran status these days.

“Kick-off times very rarely matter now – although this week, you’d say it has to be a consideration just because we’ve only got five days between Dragons away and Munster away on Friday. Not ideal, but you have to live with it.

“Mostly though, you do your preparation around the kick-off, whether it’s a Friday night, or whenever during a Saturday, or like this week when we play on a Sunday. It doesn’t make much of a difference. For me, the only thing it really affects is when you have your breakfast,” he laughs, parking professionalism for more personal requirements.

The 34-year-old has been among the paid ranks since 2004 when he started out with the Border Reivers. If that was step up in class, it’s nothing to what he has witnessed in the decade or more since.

“It’s like night and day,” Ford concedes. “When I first started, line-out calls were all you worried about. There would be one move you’d try off a line-out that would be different. Now, you virtually have a play book you’ve got to know, covering all scenarios. And then you’ll have the same on the opposition.

“Now, you are switched on all of the time and it doesn’t just stop at the end of the day. There is stuff sent through on our iPads and phones, videos to watch, reports to read, fitting in as much as possible so you keep on top of everything. There is no hiding place. But that is the level of professional rugby today, that perhaps people don’t see.

“As I say, a change from the biggest thing being if the ball was delivered straight on your throw!”

Having a former international hooker, namely Richard Cockerill, as your head coach does mean there is no shortage of advice or encouragement for the No 2’s at Edinburgh. Is Ross all for that one-to-one scrutiny?

“With other coaches, you could maybe make an excuse, or give them a reason why something didn’t work, and they’d accept that, but …”

Ford laughs, loudly, and shakes his head. Whatever he was going to say, he maybe thought better of it.

“Nae much point, making excuses to someone who has done it, is there?

“But it can only help having someone like Cockers and for him it’s all about the detail. In training you can throw alright, and then he’ll come back at you and point out some wee detail.

“If he doesn’t think it’s good enough, it’s not good enough. Nae arguing. I dinnae mind that. He’s making me better – even at this stage, career-wise – because you need that accuracy, you need to have every throw at the top of the jump, at the right place, the right pace.”

While not part of the Scotland set-up for the Autumn Tests, such a window has given Ford the chance to put himself firmly in the frame with Edinburgh.

“Early season was a bit up and down, not much game time to start with. Rambo [Stuart McInally] has played very well and deserves to start, but I’ve had a few games now around the Autumn internationals so I’m a bit happier.

“It’s just about making the most of the chances,” says Ford, who believes Edinburgh can improve on what they did, Pro14-wise last season.

“We are definitely in a better place, and that’s down to the balance. We always had a decent pack of forwards, but we have much better backs. Previously I’d say we muscled teams out of it, but when that didn’t work we struggled. Now we have more options, and are able to play a different way. A Plan B – and maybe a C and a D as well.”