Greig Laidlaw begins a new chapter in his career tonight when he makes his competitive debut for Gloucester.
It was announced in March that the Scotland half-back would be departing Edinburgh Rugby to continue his career at the Aviva Premiership club, and the 28-year-old cannot wait to run out at Franklin’s Gardens tonight as the English top flight gets underway when his side take on hosts Northampton Saints at 7:45pm.
Laidlaw has been picked to start at scrum-half and will be lining up with England No 8 Ben Morgan in front of him, Wales stand-off James Hook just outside him and England centre Billy Twelvetrees, the skipper, at 12. The starting XV also includes international stars Richard Hibbard, John Afoa and Sione Kalamafoni, leaving Laidlaw very excited about the match.
He said: “One of the main reasons I decided to move to Gloucester was the quality of players that were already at the club and that were being brought in over the summer and I think anyone looking at our teamsheet will be quite impressed by the squad that has been put together.
“My aim throughout the whole pre-season was to be named in the team for the first competitive match and now that I have done that I must put in a good performance and help the club get the campaign off to a positive start.
“Having made the decision during last season, the news was out in the open for quite a while and I just wanted to finish last season as strongly as I could with Edinburgh Rugby and then enjoy the Scotland summer tour.
“Then it was straight down to Gloucester to get the family settled and everything and the club have been brilliant with me. It is a lovely area to be based in while the supporters make you feel welcome straight away and they are rugby mad.
“As a result our home form at Kingsholm is going to be crucial to how we do in the league and in Europe because the fans give us such a great platform to build on. First things first though, we need to get a good result at Northampton.”
Fellow Scot Stevie McColl has been named on the bench for Gloucester tonight and the utility back could also make his competitive debut.
The 26-year-old from Dunfermline has impressed in England for a number of seasons for Doncaster Knights and Leeds Carnegie and Laidlaw believes his new team-mate has a bright future. “Many years ago Stevie was in the academy at Edinburgh and I remember him from that time. He took the bold move of heading to the English Championship and he did really well there by all accounts.
“In pre-season he has done really well and he is quite a character with a big boot on him, so I think he can do well in the Premiership.”
With the Rugby World Cup in England next year, that was another reason Laidlaw wanted to make the move down south at this stage in his career.
He explained: “I had been at Edinburgh a long time and played in the Pro12 for a number of seasons and I just felt a new environment and new tests week in, week out would be good for me heading up to the World Cup.
“I want to make sure I am at my peak for Scotland when that comes around and I think as a national side we are moving in the right direction.
“There were some positive signs on the summer tour, while [head coach] Vern Cotter is getting to know all of the players and there are a number of younger guys starting to put their hands up for selection.”
In terms of Edinburgh Rugby, Laidlaw will be keeping an eye on them from afar and has even given a couple of his former team-mates some tips on their own opponents tonight, Munster.
“Everyone knows I had a great time at Edinburgh and the club will always be close to my heart,” he said. “They seem to have got a good pre-season under their belts and after we played Munster a few weeks ago in a friendly I told some of the Edinburgh boys what they can expect from them.”
After tonight’s match, the Aviva Premiership gets into full swing tomorrow with four matches, while Gordon Ross’s London Welsh meet Moray Low’s Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
In total there are 18 Scots playing in the Aviva Premiership currently with Laidlaw, McColl, Ross and Low joined by Bath’s Grant Shiells, Geoff Cross, Blair Cowan, Kieran Low, Scott Steele (London Irish), Newcastle Falcons’ Scott Lawson, Scott MacLeod, Ally Hogg, Mike Blair and Phil Godman, Sale Sharks’ Nathan Hines and Chris Cusiter and Kelly Brown and Duncan Taylor (Saracens).