Capital side look to Laidlaw in bid for back-to-back European wins

CONSIDERING the balance that Edinburgh need to strike between exuding confidence and keeping their feet on the ground as the Heineken Cup gathers promise, the return of scrum half Greig Laidlaw as captain is timely.

Mike Blair started against London Irish last week but struggled behind a pack under pressure to provide the lead Michael Bradley was looking for, and so Laidlaw, having come off the bench to help steer the team to a 20-19 victory with a match-winning conversion, reclaims the No 9 jersey for tonight’s return to Murrayfield and meeting with Racing Metro 92.

It is, however, as much about his mental approach as how his skills matter to the side as they strive to cope with the physical onslaught expected from the French pack and still have the edge when it comes to the scoreboard.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The straight-talking Borderer said: “I’m confident, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. A team like Racing Metro have massive, world-class players right through their squad and, if we don’t turn up for this match, we’ll get turned over.

“Their pack is massive and they’ll take us on physically, and their kicking game with [Juan Martin] Hernandez is good, so we’ll be expecting a few balls in the air. But our pack are playing well. They have struggled a bit in the scrum at times, but their rucking, lineout and pick-and-go work was really good against London Irish and gave us a platform to play off.

“And that’s the theme we’re going for now – consistency, accuracy and patience and, if you take those things into the game, there’s no reason why we can’t win.”

Laidlaw is the only change to the back line that clinched Edinburgh’s first-ever away win at the start of a Heineken Cup campaign but, with David Denton ruled out through the concussion he suffered from Shontayne Hape’s tackle, Netani Talei comes in at blindside flanker, while Roddy Grant replaces Ross Rennie on the openside and Steven Turnbull replaces the suspended Sean Cox on the bench.

Racing are missing some players to injury and suspension, but still possess a powerful pack and lethal attackers across the back line when they are given the chance to play. And, with big forwards Sebastien Chabal and Lionel Nallet back, goalkicker Jonathan Wisniewski slotting in at full-back and Hernandez a clever kicker at stand-off, their ability to play tight rugby, kick for territory and play off Edinburgh penalties must be overcome for the hosts to prevail.

Laidlaw is well aware of that fact, and knows how big and aggressive a game he will need from his forwards, but the scrum-half believes his side are developing the strength of character and resilience to go toe-to-toe with the French side and put themselves into the frame for the quarter-finals with a second successive win.

He added: “Everybody is getting quite excited and we have to keep our feet on the ground. But there’s no point going down to London Irish and winning to then come home and get beaten because all that hard work would be undone.

“And that’s where Edinburgh have fallen down in the past – one good win, out of the blue almost, followed up by a defeat. That’s something we need to change this week and, if we can, we’ll be in a good position.”