From Jedburgh to Japan: Greig Laidlaw, former Scotland captain, retires from rugby to move into coaching

It began in Jedburgh and will end in Japan for Greig Laidlaw who is bringing the curtain down on his rugby career at the age of 37.

The former Scotland captain has announced his intention to retire from the game and move into coaching. Urayasu D-Rocks, the Japanese club he plays for, will be the last port of call on a journey that started in the youth ranks at Jed-Forest and Jed Thistle and moved on to Edinburgh, Gloucester and Clermont Auvergne.

Along the way he won a European trophy and played in a French Top 14 final and, perhaps most memorably of all, helped Scotland to their 25-13 Calcutta Cup win at Murrayfield in 2018. It was their first victory against England in 10 years and paved the way for a period of Scots dominance in the fixture which has seen Gregor Townsend’s side lose just one of their last six meetings with the Auld Enemy.

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Laidlaw announced his retirement from international rugby after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and he pursued his club career in the country where he was feted by supporters. He intends to remain there for the foreseeable future

Greg Laidlaw, who has announced his retirement from rugby, in action for Scotland in 2019.Greg Laidlaw, who has announced his retirement from rugby, in action for Scotland in 2019.
Greg Laidlaw, who has announced his retirement from rugby, in action for Scotland in 2019.

“Playing rugby in Japan has been the most incredible experience,” he said as he announced his retirement in a post on Instagram in which he paid tribute to his wife, Rachel, and children. “Japanese culture is amazing and to be able to see my children growing up here, watching them learn a new language and adapt to a different way of life is a privilege I will never take for granted.

“We intend as a family to stay in Japan a while longer but it is here I will finally hang up my playing boots. It is time to take everything I have learnt, from a playing career I could only have dreamt of, and move on into coaching.

“Throughout my playing career I have pushed myself, I have taken on new experiences, continuously learnt and immersed myself in different cultures. I have always enjoyed figuring out how to work as a team and how to get the best out of my teammates, things I will take with me and continue to develop.

“I believe I have developed a really strong skill set in performing under pressure and leadership, the two areas that I have learnt most about and that have always fascinated me.

“As a player I would like to thank so many different people not least Rachel and the boys for supporting my dreams and allowing me to live them. To everyone who has supported my playing journey, a huge thank you and I hope you will be part of my next chapter also.”

Laidlaw’s willingness to adapt to new situations was also reflected in his ability to play both scrum-half and stand-off. Although his Scotland career was played out mainly in the No 9 jersey, he had long spells at 10 for Edinburgh, most notably during their run to the Heineken Cup semi-finals in 2012.

He moved to Gloucester a couple of years later and helped them win the European Challenge Cup in 2015, kicking 14 points as they beat Edinburgh 19-13 in the final at Twickenham Stoop. After three seasons in the English Premiership, Laidlaw decamped to France to join Clermont Auvergne. He guided them to the final of the Top 14 in 2019 but they were edged out 24-18 by Toulouse in front of 80,000 fans in Paris.

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Capped 76 times, he captained Scotland on 40 occasions, a record. Laidlaw skippered Scotland at the 2015 World Cup where they were seconds away from reaching the semi-finals, losing out to Australia in the quarters in agonising fashion when a late, contentious refereeing decision went against them.

He played at the World Cup again four years later, with Stuart McInally having taken over the captaincy by this time. Laidlaw returned as skipper for the final pool match against Japan but couldn’t prevent the Scots going down 28-21 to the hosts, a result that saw them eliminated.

In between his two World Cups, he toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 2017 and played in six non-Test matches for the tourists. In doing so he emulated his illustrious uncle, Roy Laidlaw, who was in the Lions Test team on their 1983 tour to New Zealand and another proud son of Jedburgh, the small Borders town with the uncanny knack of producing international class scrum-halves.

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