SCOTLAND captain Greig Laidlaw is to leave Gloucester at the end of the season and join French club Clermont-Auvergne.
The Aviva Premiership club confirmed the 31-year-old scrum-half Laidlaw’s departure, which will come when his current contract expires.
Laidlaw, who has won 53 caps, joined Gloucester from Edinburgh in 2014. He is to continue his career in France, with Scotland coach Vern Cotter’s former club Clermont Auvergne announcing he has signed a three-year deal.
Laidlaw told Gloucester’s official website that his move had not been an easy decision to make.
“”I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Gloucester. It’s a fantastic club which enjoys tremendous support,” he said.
“The squad contains a great group of boys, I love playing at Kingsholm, and it’s been a genuine honour to captain the side.
“Since I first moved south, I feel that my game has developed tremendously for playing in the Gloucester team in the Aviva Premiership, and it’s a period of my career that I will always look back on fondly.
“However, at this stage of my career, the offer to test myself and develop my game even further in a different environment was just too good to turn down.
“It’s not been an easy decision to make, but I think it’s the right one.
“There is so much I will miss about Gloucester as a club and a place.
“However, there are still plenty of games left this season and a lot to play for, and I can guarantee that I will be giving 100 per cent commitment to the Gloucester cause to help us achieve as much as possible in my remaining time here.”
Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys added: “Since all the changes at Gloucester ahead of the 2014-15 season, his consistent performances at both club and international level, particularly his goalkicking, have caught the attention of some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“While we are sorry to see him go, the offer Greig received from France was too good to turn down.
“For now, however, Greig will want to play a key role in helping us to turn our Premiership season around and help Gloucester finish the year on a high.”
Clermont, who currently lead the French Top 14 by four points and open their European Champions Cup campaign at Exeter on Sunday, confirmed Laidlaw’s signature on their official website.
Laidlaw is the club’s first major signing for next term, and Clermont sporting director Franck Azema said: “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Greig.
“This is great news that the club is going to have one of the best players and top scorers in the world in his position.
“Whether in the English league or the Scotland team, Greig has acquired extensive experience of high-level rugby and developed a leadership which will be a real asset.”