Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw believes Rugby Park’s artificial pitch could be a key weapon in their bid to finish off their autumn Test series on a high note with victory over Georgia on Saturday afternoon.
The fast improving east Europeans come with a formidable reputation in the forwards and have been buoyed by a 20-16 win over Samoa in Tbilisi.
Laidlaw is expecting another fearsome physical contest but believes a high-tempo game can help the Scots to victory and build on last week’s 19-16 success over Argentina at BT Murrayfield in which the skipper nailed the winning penalty.
“I would say yes. The artificial pitch certainly lends itself to a faster game and we feel we probably have the edge on them in terms of fitness,” said the Gloucester scrum-half. “If we can put the fitness and the skill element together we feel as though we can cause them a lot of problems.”
After losing the first autumn Test 23-22 to Australia the Scots are keen to finish the series with a winning record and Laidlaw said there was a burning determination to finish on a positive note ahead of the Six Nations in a few months.
“Let’s get out there and win,” he continued. “Make sure our skills sets are high and we keep our error count low and we play smart rugby and aggressive rugby as they are an aggressive team but so [are]we. We enjoyed winning at the weekend so it is important we finish off this series with a win.
“They have been brutal Test matches these past two weeks and our intensity will not drop off. We need to get our own stuff right. We have to concentrate on our things.”
Laidlaw says the Scots will give the Georgians the respect they have earned over the past few years as the nations meet for only the second time. The previous encounter saw Scotland grind out a tryless 15-6 win in the 2011 World Cup pool stage.
The former Soviet republic has firmly established itself as Europe’s leading second-tier nation and Laidlaw is aware that the Georgians will want to make a statement regarding possible Six Nations involvement in the future.
“They are developing very well and have had a lot of positive results themselves this year,” said the 31-year-old when asked to assess this weekend’s opponents. “They are big on scrum and forward play and are coming here off the back of a win. They will be looking to cause a so-called upset.
“They will be up for it. It is the big stage for them. If we get our part right we will be fine.”
On the subject of Six Nations admission, Laidlaw said: “That is something for World Rugby to look at. Nothing to do with me as a player.
“What is great for rugby round the world is that nations like that are buying into their rugby. When they play at home they get big crowds. They are trying to push rugby in their country.
“It is fantastic to see. But we will not be taking them too lightly this weekend.”
For many the most encouraging thing to come out of the past few games has been the mature displays by several youngsters who have been blooded in the Test arena and proved they can hold their own at the game’s highest level.
“It’s been brilliant to see the strength in depth that’s starting to develop in the squad and I’m sure the coaches are delighted,” said the skipper. “The young boys have really stepped up. Whether that’s Allan Dell, Fraser Brown starting at the weekend, Zander Fagerson in a very tough position [tighthead], Alex Allan off the bench, who’s probably not had a huge amount of rugby. We are starting to develop strength in depth and competition for places. That’s going a long way to driving the team on.”
Laidlaw has played all 160 minutes of the series so far and said he has sympathy for young back-up scrum-half Ali Price, who has been kicking his heels on the bench.
“I am sure he will be frustrated. I have been there myself,” said Laidlaw. “It is a frustrating time as a player.
“Ali is level headed. His attitude has been second to none. He has trained brilliantly and has put his head down and worked hard. That is credit to him. Hopefully he will get a run-out at the weekend.
“The way the last two weeks have gone they’ve been real tight games. I’m kicking goals and captaining the teams: the way the games have panned out it just lends itself... you don’t want to take your playmakers off in tight games unless you’re trailing and you feel you need to change things up a little bit.
“We’d like to think if we put a strong performance again this weekend things might be different but the game’s not been played yet, who knows what will happen. We’re not thinking too far ahead, we’re just thinking about the first minute on Saturday.”