GREIG Laidlaw sat in the press conference ahead of Scotland’s Test against the US fielding nothing but questions about the heat and the humidity as if they were going to put points in the board tomorrow evening.
Was there a danger of focusing on the elements in Houston rather than the American Eagles, who are never less than physical?
“They have a big pack and they are aggressive,” the scrum-half agreed. “They fly into rucks. We can’t do anything about the conditions, so we need to worry about the game and concentrate on beating the Americans, who are a solid side. If we don’t turn up and knock them back in defence they will get on the front foot. When they are, they can get their tails up.
“With all rugby matches it’s the gain line. If you win that gain-line battle and stop the momentum, if we can go forward in attack and go forward in defence, it goes a long way towards winning rugby. When you are on the front foot, rugby is a lot easier, you start getting quick ball and you slow their ball down, especially for the scrum-half.”
Laidlaw conceded that he and the rest of the team had been picking the brains of Kelly Brown, Duncan Taylor and even Scott Johnson about the opposition, several of whom play for Saracens, including the impressive fullback, Chris Wyles.
It is possible that Laidlaw’s tenure of the captaincy will be a short one, because the injury to Brown’s foot should allow the breakaway to return in time for next weekend’s match with Canada in Toronto, not that the Borderer is fazed by that.
“I’m delighted to be captain because, every time I’ve been given that, I don’t take it lightly. It’s a huge honour for me and my family so I’ll try and lead from the front and lead with passion and put that passion into the Scottish shirt because that goes a long way to winning games as well.”
Laidlaw conceded that there were two added incentives to notch up a good win over the Eagles. The first is because the two teams are drawn in the same World Cup pool next year and, secondly, to wash away the bad taste left in the mouth after Scotland’s last performance, when the early dismissal of Stuart Hogg allowed Wales to run up 51 points in Cardiff.
As well as captaining the side and performing his own scrum-half duties, Laidlaw has one auxiliary role in this evening’s game: minder to debutant flyhalf Finn Russell. Or maybe not.
Asked if he was looking forward to looking after the 21-year-old, Laidlaw had this to say about his new half-back partner.
“I’m sure he’ll look after himself. He’s played wonderfully well for Glasgow this year. He’s a young guy with a good temperament and that’s very important when you’re playing flyhalf.
“He handles himself well. He’s confident but not in a bad way. It’s a good trait for him to have. Coming off the back of a good season he’s had with Glasgow, I am sure he is looking forward to it and he deserves his cap. I’m delighted for him. He’s a young guy who came through the system in Scotland and he’s obviously done a lot of work with Gregor Townsend, who I am sure has helped him along on his career. We want to make it a good day on his first Test.”