Six Nations 2015: I’m not perfect 10 for Scotland, says Laidlaw
Scotland captain insists he is not the man to step in at stand-off if Finn Russell's suspension appeal is thrown out
Greig Laidlaw insists he is not the man to deputise at number 10 for Scotland if Finn Russell is ruled out of their RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy.
The 29-year-old Scotland captain has played in the position before, and was signed by Gloucester Rugby from Edinburgh as a scrum-half who can play 10, but feels there are more natural fits available to Vern Cotter.
I’ve played at 10 before but I don’t think I would be the first option the coaches would look at. There are boys who play there week in, week out – I’ve not played there for a long time.
Cotter, the Scotland head coach, will find out on Wednesday afternoon if the Scottish Rugby Union have been successful in their appeal of Russell’s two-week ban for a “reckless” challenge on Dan Biggar in their defeat to Wales on 15 February.
The Glasgow Warriors stand-off was yellow carded by New Zealand referee Glen Jackson for taking out Biggar in the air during in the first half of their 26-23 defeat, but the 22-year-old was later cited and banned by a Six Nations disciplinary committee, which determined that the offence warranted a red card.
“Finn is a good boy; the tackle which led to his ban was an accident,” Laidlaw said.
“What is going to happen will happen.
“I’ve played at 10 before, but I don’t think I would be the first option the coaches would look at.
“There are boys who play there week in, week out.
“I’ve not played there for a long time. I think the coaches will be looking at other options before they look at me.
“I’ve spoken to them at length this week and I will certainly not be there at the start.”
Former Edinburgh captain Laidlaw, who has started at scrum-half in their defeats to France and Wales, is seen by some as an experienced hand on the tiller should Russell be ruled out.
Cotter’s experienced outside-half options were depleted going into the championship with Wasps’ Ruaridh Jackson out with a leg injury and Glasgow Warriors’ Duncan Weir ruled out of the championship with a torn bicep.
While Russell is also inexperienced, he has impressed for club and country since making his debut against the USA last summer, but Cotter’s remaining options also lack international experience.
Edinburgh’s Tom Heathcote has recently returned from injury, and started for Scotland in a 30-29 win over Italy in a quadrangular series in South Africa during the summer of 2013, but looked woefully out of sorts at times in the Gunners’ 20-17 defeat to Ulster last Friday, although Cotter can negate his 40 per cent kicking success in that match with Laidlaw kicking at goal.
The remaining options are to draft in Edinburgh’s versatile back Greig Tonks, who was an unused replacement against Wales, or further deplete Glasgow’s backline by drafting in Peter Horne, who steered Gregor Townsend’s side to recent wins over Zebre and the Ospreys and is arguably the in-form option.
We will see what happens, but we feel we have strong players in there if the worst does happen with Finn.
Cotter’s final option would be to switch Warriors full-back Stuart Hogg to stand-off, as he did while Russell was serving his time on the sidelines.
The popular star is more than capable of playing at stand-off, but moving him would leave limited options in the Dark Blues’ back three.
And the Scotland captain is confident that should one of those three be drafted in to start alongside him, they are more than capable of doing a job against a struggling Azzurri side.
“With Horney and Tonks, both are left-peggers so that is good for trying to exit out of your own half when you are looking for options with both left foot and right foot,” Laidlaw added.
“Horney is a more jinky player, where Tonks gives good ball down the line. Both of them are good in defence too, which is vital.
“And they are both ready to step up to the international stage.
“Hoggy also has all the attributes to move up to 10 too.
“He’s got a strong kicking game and we’ve seen him come in as first receiver a couple of times in the championships already and cause defences problems.
“We will see what happens, but we feel we have strong players in there if the worst does happen with Finn.”
Cotter names his team to play Italy on Thursday afternoon.