Success at 10 hasn’t ended No 9 dream for Greg Laidlaw
GREIG Laidlaw may have completed his most satisfying season to date by cementing his Scotland place with an historic three-Test triumph in the southern hemisphere, but the Borderer is still not convinced that his future lies in the No 10 jersey.
Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley has one clear priority, to win matches each week, so, while it might help Scotland and the development of Scottish stand-offs to consider switching the 26-year-old back to his old role of scrum-half, it is not in the Irishman’s thinking.
Laidlaw accepts that his move from scrum-half halfway through last season and subsequent performances for Edinburgh and Scotland have created a dilemma. As a youngster, his dream was always to play in the Scotland No 9 jersey his uncle Roy made his own in the 1980s but his international aspirations have been realised instead by ten caps at No 10. However, he remains unsure about the future.
“As long as I have one of them [half-back jerseys] I’m not bothered,” said Laidlaw. “I just want to play for Scotland and my form has to be good for Edinburgh, whatever that position is.
“But I don’t have the answer at the minute [which position he prefers]. I still stick to my guns and say I feel able to play in both positions. Ultimately, Michael [Bradley] is looking at me as a stand-off this season, which is fine, but I will be asking him for some run-outs at No 9 as well.
“It’s something I have thought about and I don’t know how it will go down but I will be round to his office gently reminding him that I can play nine.”
Laidlaw and Bradley have a clear mutual respect but that could make for some interesting conversations between coach and captain.
Bradley said: “My concern primarily would be Edinburgh Rugby and I think Greig has a fantastic future at ten. He brings a dimension to the game for us and, by extension, to the national side. He’s a different type of player and is a possible route forward for club and country. So, in my mind at the moment, he would be our starting ten.”
As far as Scotland is concerned, Laidlaw shares supporters’ intrigue over who might make the best half-back pairing in the years to come.
Mike Blair, Chris Cusiter and Rory Lawson have all shown fine form in the past year but all are 30 or older, so competition at scrum-half may thin towards the World Cup in 2015.
The battle at stand-off will intensify as youngsters Ruaridh Jackson, Duncan Weir, Harry Leonard and Gregor Hunter challenge Laidlaw. So, does that make a return to scrum-half more likely in the future?
“I’m not sure,” said Laidlaw. “Mike [Blair] is now in France, Chris and Rory are a bit older than me and, looking forward, I’d like to think I can cover there. There are always good young players coming through but the type of character I am I’ll be looking after myself and just holding onto the jersey as long as I can.”
Scotland’s current lynchpins are Laidlaw and either Blair or Cusiter but national coach Andy Robinson could be contemplating as many as 11 combinations as he looks ahead to the Autumn Tests against New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga.
That proven trio are joined in the debate by Jackson, Weir and Lawson and new attack coach Scott Johnson or defence coach Matt Taylor might want to try something different. Come the 2015 World Cup, it could change again depending on which of Leonard, Hunter, Henry Pyrgos, Murray McConnell, Alex Black and Sean Kennedy are given and grasp chances.
But none of that is Bradley’s concern. Picking the right players to launch the new season with victory over Munster at Murrayfield in less than six weeks’ time and build a run of wins is. He said: “Our requirement this year, as it was last year, is to win as many games as we can. Harry’s still developing and is a different athlete [to Laidlaw], but there are loads of opportunities as Greig will be away with Scotland at times.
“As for Greig, it’s important that the player is happy so, if he still wants to keep his hand in at scrum-half, then it’s something we’ll consider. He’s right to keep his options open but look at his contribution in his first half-season at number ten. He’s learning how to manage a game, kicking strategies, organisation and is getting more confident. He mightn’t be the tallest in the world but he stands tall on the pitch and , when he has that talent and can express it at ten that’s a huge plus.”
The very fact that Bradley and Robinson have various options to puzzle over is a huge plus for Scottish rugby.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east