Ross Ford insists Scotland leadership strong despite Greig Laidlaw blow

Ross Ford insists Scotland will not be left rudderless despite seeing skipper Greig Laidlaw ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations.

The Gloucester scrum-half will sit out the remainder of the Championship after suffering ankle ligament damage during Sunday's loss to France.

Laidlaw went down just before half-time as the Dark Blues slumped to a 22-16 defeat in Paris and left the Stade de France on crutches.

The 31-year-old was sent back to the Kingsholm Stadium earlier this week to be assessed by his club medics, with the Scottish Rugby Union confirming on Wednesday that their worst fears had been realised.

It is a considerable blow for Scotland head coach Vern Cotter who has come to rely on Laidlaw, not only for his goal-kicking abilities but also his decision making in the heat of battle.

But 105-cap hooker Ford - himself a former Scotland captain - believes there are plenty of leadership candidates who could fill in for Laidlaw.

Flanker John Barclay took over the armband when Laidlaw limped off against Les Bleus, but was himself soon replaced after suffering a head knock and remains a doubt for next week's visit of Wales to Murrayfield.

Lock Jonny Gray became the Scots' third skipper of the day when Barclay went off and has long been tipped as a future national team captain, while Ford reckons stand-off Finn Russell could also perform the role.

The Edinburgh front-rower said: "Grieg is obviously a massive part of the squad and a great leader, so it's a big blow.

"His captaincy over the past 18 months has really come through to the fore and he shows when he plays that he is a big part of what we're about.

"But we've got a leadership group that has been alongside Greig helping him out, so those boys will be able to step up and take that role on and move forward.

"We do it as a group and yeah, Greig is the focal point we have a group of leaders who can shoulder the burden.

"Finn and Jonny have shown when they are playing for Glasgow in Europe they can step up and make the right calls.

"So they have that experience there and the more experienced members of the squad will also be able to take the pressure off here and there when we can. It's about calming the other lads down and letting the decision-makers think clearly."

As well as the dilemma over the captaincy, Cotter also faces a difficult choice replacing his talismanic scrum-half when Scotland welcome Rob Howley's Dragons to Edinburgh next Saturday.

Ali Price took over at number nine at the weekend when Laidlaw departed, but it was just the 23-year-old's second Test appearance.

His Glasgow colleague Henry Pyrgos is another option. With 18 caps he has more experience at international level in his locker but that is balanced by his recent dip in form.

Ford, though, has faith in whoever gets the nod from Cotter.

"These guys have been with us for a long time now," he said. "When we train, they switch in and out with Greig all the time.

"They will give us a slightly different emphasis on different parts of the game but the game plan will stay the same."

Scotland won on the opening day of a Six Nations campaign for the first time in 11 years when they beat Ireland earlier this month.

But they could not back that up with a long-awaited win in Paris - a feat the Dark Blues have not achieved since 1999.

Despite outscoring the hosts by two tries to one, Cotter's men could not hold on for victory but Ford insists the team remains in positive mood.

He said: "There was obviously massive disappointment as well as frustration and anger that we didn't play as well as we could have.

"But there is no point getting carried away too much with the wins and on the flip side it's not the end of the world when you lose.

"There's always someone else coming up, so it's about keeping an even keel.

"We were not getting too carried away with the Irish win and we won't get too down with the France result."

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