Ex-Jed ace Laidlaw to bow out of international rugby

Jedburgh great Greig Laidlaw announced last week he is to step back from a glittering career in international rugby.

Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 10:45 am
Updated Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 10:46 am
Greig Laidlaw (library image by Ian Rutherford)

The hugely popular scrum half captained Scotland more than any other player (39 out of 76 appearances) and is the country’s second all-time points scorer with 714.

Team mates past and present have paid tribute on social media over the last few days as 34-year-old Laidlaw told the Scottish Rugby website: “Emotionally, this decision was incredibly tough. However, when I reflected on what I have learned from playing Test level rugby and where Scotland is as a national team, it makes sense.

“Captaining your country to victory is the stuff of childhood dreams. To say I will never again stand in the tunnel, filled with nerves, alongside my rugby family and lead my teammates out on to the pitch at BT Murrayfield, is incredibly hard.

“While my body and heart could continue playing, my head tells me that it’s time to let the team rebuild. In terms of where Scotland is now, they are in a position to spring forward and I cannot wait to give them my full support from the stands.”

Laidlaw thanked everyone who had supported. helped and eoncuraged him during his career. He made his international debut, aged 25, against New Zealand in 2010.

His Test breakthrough amounted to two replacement appearances in his favoured scrum-half role before he narrowly missed out on final squad selection for Rugby World Cup 2011, a moment that galvanised the ambition of the resolute, competitive player he would become.

His next Test opportunity came the following year when his versatility and rugby nous were pressed into action at stand-off, where he made 11 further Scotland appearances, including a clean sweep of summer tour wins in 2012 over Australia, Fiji and Samoa.

Finishing the season in possession of the No. 9 jersey led to him being named captain for the first time in 2013 – against South Africa in Nelspruit – starting an unprecedented association with the role that came to an end when he led Scotland against Japan in the final Test of Rugby World Cup 2019.

By 2014, it was clear Laidlaw had developed significantly as both a leader and scrum-half, his commanding hand on the tiller and goal kicking in particular now dependable features of his game.

His displays helped Scotland to the quarter-finals of RWC2015 and his nomination for World Rugby Player of the Year, only the second Scot to achieve such an accolade.

A 2017 British & Irish Lions call-up came after recovering from an ankle injury sustained in that year’s away Six Nations match in Paris.

He would return to star in the 2018 Six Nations Championship, scoring 22 points in Scotland’s home win over France and featuring against England in the Calcutta Cup triumph two weeks later.

Laidlaw played three times at RWC2019 earlier this year, where he passed the 100-World Cup tournament point mark in Scotland’s final match against the hosts, in what would ultimately be his last game in dark blue.

Back in August, he and his uncle, Roy Laidlaw, plus Gary Armstrong – the Three 9s – were honoured by their former club, Jed-Forest, for having played at scrum half for the Riverside club, as well as Scotland and the British 7 Irish Lions.

Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend, told the website: “Greig has been an outstanding servant for Scottish rugby, through the passion and skill he displayed when wearing the thistle on his chest and also on the many occasions he led the side.

“That he began his Scotland career at stand-off before claiming the number nine jersey shows what an exceptional rugby player he is and was for Scotland and, to be captain on so many occasions, rightly places him alongside the best players to ever led the national team.”