Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw is viewing next month’s European Challenge Cup final at BT Murrayfield as the chance for a perfect end to his three-year spell at Gloucester.
The Cherry and Whites will face Stade Francais in Edinburgh on Friday 12 May and Laidlaw is hoping to get his hands on Europe’s second-tier trophy for the second time.
The 58-times capped Scotland scrum-half was part of the Gloucester side that defeated his old club Edinburgh at Twickenham Stoop in 2015 and is relishing the “unique” opportunity of playing in another European final at the stadium where he began his professional career and has enjoyed some of the most significant moments of his career in a Scotland jersey.
The 31-year-old was back on the field at the weekend as he played 19 minutes off the bench in Gloucester’s Challenge Cup semi-final win over La Rochelle in France. It was his first taste of action since an ankle injury at the Stade de France ended his Six Nations Championship.
“If we could win again it would certainly top it off,” added Laidlaw.
“I think it would be brilliant to finish my Gloucester career in Edinburgh on a high. It would be unique in a sense.
“Obviously I love playing at BT Murrayfield for Scotland – the recent win over Ireland was one of my most memorable games in the Scotland shirt – so it would be great to add another in Gloucester colours before I move on. It would be a nice way to finish.”
Laidlaw is joining Clermont-Auvergne in the summer and, in a nice piece of symmetry, Vern Cotter’s old club will also be in Edinburgh to face Saracens in the Champions Cup final the following day.
Gloucester also have Scotland centre Matt Scott, pictured, in their ranks and he and Laidlaw will be hoping for a similar occasion to the 2012 Heineken Cup quarter-final when they helped Edinburgh to a famous win over Toulouse in front of 40,000 before narrowly losing the semi-final to Ulster in Dublin.
“Hopefully, with the Scottish connection to Gloucester through me and many other Scotland players before, we’ll have the backing of the Scottish support as well,” said Laidlaw.
“The support we get from Gloucester fans is superb. They’ve been queuing at the ticket office since we beat La Rochelle, so I expect we’ll see a few of them in Edinburgh for the final.”
There are now two Aviva Premiership games – away to Bath and at home to Exeter – for the Scotland skipper to get himself back to full fitness in time for the European final.
“The physio and strength and conditioning teams have worked really hard to get me to this place,” said Laidlaw. “I felt good in the semi-final and will continue to work on getting my sharpness back. I’m feeling better every day. It’s just about fine-tuning now.”
Laidlaw is philosophical about missing out on Lions selection with Ireland’s Conor Murray, Wales’ Rhys Webb, and England’s Ben Youngs the three scrum-halves in Warren Gatland’s Lions party, which includes only two Scots – Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour.
“It was clearly bad timing to get injured,” Laidlaw said. “I would have loved to have played right through the Six Nations.
“But that’s life and it’s done. For me it’s about getting back on the field and finishing this part of my career on a high with Gloucester.”
l Tickets for the European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cup finals are available at www.eticketing.co.uk/scottishrugby