At 33 and very much the elder statesman of the Scotland team, skipper Greig Laidlaw is not one to get himself involved with social media antics in the way that some of his younger team-mates do.
However, he admitted one piece of Twitter tomfoolery had come to his attention this week ahead of today’s autumn Test against Argentina.
Animator Graham Love from Aberdeen mocked up an image of Adam Hastings and Finn Russell as toddlers being kept on a tight rein by Laidlaw and attracted a good few retweets and the captain was more than willing to take the joke in good humour yesterday.
“I have seen it. Adam actually showed me it. Hoggy [Stuart Hogg] kindly changed the group icon on our WhatsApp group to that. We are getting reminded every time we check the phone now,” said Laidlaw.
They say a picture can tell a thousand words and, for all the frivolity, Laidlaw admitted that there was a kernel of truth in the image as he looks forward to a new half-back partnership with 22-year-old Hastings as Russell shuffles out to inside centre in a bold experimental selection from coach Gregor Townsend.
“It is down to me. Being captain as well it is my job in implementing the gameplan we have spoken about and want to put in place,” said the Clermont Auvergne scrum-half. “In the same breath I have got to give them the confidence to cut loose as well. It is such a fine line.
“It isn’t about over-playing, that is where I try and come in, make sure we don’t over play and ask the questions such as, what are we doing? What’s the next play? Is that the right play?
“If it is putting it down the field we will put it down the field. We are not going to run it from everywhere. We are not playing for the Barbarians. We are playing for Scotland and want to play a fast brand of rugby. That is a controlled game as well.”
Laidlaw admitted he was tickled by the Twitter image but will be serious about his role in guiding the new 10-12 pairing today and ensuring that Scotland finish the Test year with a win against the Pumas.
“It is a bit of banter,” he said with a smile. “We want to push Adam on and make him a leader. With him playing in the 10 position he will be vitally important [this afternoon]. He is the man in charge. This week he has been communicating very well and running the team shape.
“With me inside him and Finn outside him there will be good communication around him so we can make sure he is happy and go out there and play rugby. They can cause mayhem as long as it is in the right area of the field.
“We talked about that briefly this morning. Every time you play for Scotland it is awesome but last weekend [against South Africa] we were really disappointed in that we were frustrated in not scoring more tries.
“We want to be a bit sharper and we spoke about that this week about getting hands on the ball and making good decisions and getting out there and really enjoying the game.”
Laidlaw’s experience and man management is much more appreciated these days after periods when some internet forum snipers accused him of being too sluggish and calling for younger, sharper scrum-halves to be brought in.
To be fair, that has never been reflected from the BT Murrayfield stands on matchday when no player gets a louder or warmer ovation from the supporters than the Jedburgh man who will win his 66th cap today.
Glasgow’s Ali Price was handed the starting jersey in the first Test of the year, which nobody needs reminding off as the wheels came off spectacularly in a desperate Cardiff mauling.
Both Price and Russell struggled badly that afternoon and Laidlaw admits that bringing a sense of calm and authority was a big part of what he offers to the team.
“Yes would be the short answer,” he agreed. “That comes with experience. Where I am placed in the team it is such a crucial link it comes back to the small margins of winning Test matches.
“If you choose to run at the wrong time it can cost you points. It comes back down to that experience. Sometimes it is a simple case of just get the ball down the field and say to the opposition you have to score from 70 metres.
“We have to keep the boys reminded we have a good defence as well and use that to our advantage. We don’t need to have the ball all the time to put the opposition under pressure.”
Laidlaw said he was looking forward to linking up with Hastings today and unleashing what, on paper, looks like the kind of back division which could do real damage today if given enough quality ball.
“Very much so. He’s a young, exciting player coming in,” said Laidlaw. “He’s been playing well at Glasgow and in a few Tests where he’s come on off the bench.
“He started in the summer against Argentina and I think that will stand him in good stead coming into this game. I think it’s really exciting, and with myself inside him and Finn outside him we’ll be able to really help him and grow him into the game.
“I think Finn will be tremendous for him, to be honest. Any time Finn has trained there or moved there in a game he has done really well.”