10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
He'd been coaching rugby union at a low level for the past five years so as to get experience in the code. In August 2001 he became aware of Ireland's interest in hiring a defence coach but nothing materialised until Eddie O'Sullivan was appointed coach and Ford was hired.
I was full time with Oldham at the time and Eddie wanted me part-time. I tried to combine both jobs but Oldham basically said you won't be able to do two jobs. So I put together a plan to show I could do the two but they made me make a decision and I chose Ireland.
I had applied for a couple of Super League jobs but didn't get on because of my lack of experience, which is a catch 22 situation. So I thought if I'm working at the highest level and have that on my CV, then in years to come they can't say I'm not experienced enough.
So I walked out on a three and a half year contract to take a part-time six month contract that expires on June 24th.
But throughout my career I've had a great time. I've achieved what I've wanted to achieve and this is a new stepping stone.
I had a great career with Castleford and then went to Australia and played for South Queensland Crushers. This is my third trip to New Zealand. I was here in 1988 with the British rugby League Lions. I didn't actually play a test that year. I was captain of the mid-week team. It was a helluva tour, twelve weeks. Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. By the end of it, I tell ya, I wanted to go home. I was twenty two at the time and not married. I can't imagine what it would be like if you were married and had kids.
He's married to Sally Anne, and has three boys Joseph (12), George (9) and Jacob (3). She came up with the idea of an indoor activity centre - it's called Cheeky Chimps - and it's a project that has really taken off and gives the Fords a buffer against the vagaries of Mike's profession.