SCOTLAND captain Greig Laidlaw has warned that the overall skill level in the squad must improve if they are to make their mark at the Rugby World Cup later in the year.
In the Six Nations in February and March, Scotland’s performances were littered with basic errors at key times.
I respect Vern and he respects me and the players respect me as wellGreig Laidlaw
As a result, they lost all five matches to finish bottom of the pile but Laidlaw is determined to drive up standards as the pre-World Cup training camp continues.
“I think we need this long build-up to prepare because we had a poor Six Nations and we need to get things right and make sure that we get out of the pool at the World Cup,” the 29-year-old scrum-half said.
“The camp so far has been enjoyable, but amongst the hard work we have been doing loads of skills work, which clearly is something we need to work on and get better at. Your skills have to be kept high when you are getting tired during international matches and that is what the sessions so far have been all about. We are just trying to drive the standards up.”
Laidlaw, who has 39 caps to his name, was talking yesterday after Scotland’s players completed a gruelling training session on the back pitches at BT Murrayfield with more than 1,000 supporters looking on.
Head coach Vern Cotter has not yet named his skipper for the showpiece event which begins in September, but, if called upon again, Laidlaw certainly seems keen to keep the armband.
“I have spoken to Vern a couple of times [about the captaincy issue] and about a couple of other things,” he explained.
“I respect Vern and he respects me and the players respect me as well and, whether I am captain or not, I will still be the same player and the same person.
“I am going into this training camp with the same mindset as I have always had.
“Whether I am captain or not, my position [of scrum-half] demands that I am a leader anyway so I will take the lead every session and I demand high standards of myself.
I also demand high standards from the players round about me so that’s what I’ll continue to do. What will be will be.” Scotland’s players will have a week off next week but, having already been in camp for three weeks, many feel that the build-up to the World Cup is too long.
Laidlaw does not subscribe to that theory, though, and believes the months spent together will really help when it comes down to kick-off.
“The long build-up is one of the toughest things, but very necessary. Everyone is talking about the World Cup but, as players, we have to take things day by day and we know that everything we do now will really have an impact when we get to the Japan match.
“Although the World Cup is so far away, as players you always have one eye on it. It is exciting. We all just want to get there in one piece really.
“One of the important things at the moment is bringing the new guys into the group and getting them settled.
“We like to get to know them as players and as people and make sure they are up to speed with all of the calls and that we are all singing from the same song sheet.
“I think leading by example is the way to do it and I think if the boys see that I come out hard and put the work in then they will follow suit.”