Greig Laidlaw is grateful for Vern Cotter’s influence in improving his game, but plans to keep on captaining Scotland once the current head coach moves on.
Laidlaw said the national squad want “send Vern off in the best way possible” with as many wins in the next eight games between now and June, while confirming that he had an agreement with his new club Clermont Auvergne to continue to be available for Scotland.
It had been rumoured that Laidlaw had been asked by the French league leaders to give up test rugby when he starts a new three-year deal with them next summer, but the scrum-half ended any speculation on that as he arrived for Scotland training camp ahead of the Autumn Tests yesterday.
“It was one of the stipulations for me, that I keep playing for Scotland at this moment,” he said. “Clermont were very open and fair from the outset, they wanted me to go there. We were able to come to an agreement so that’s all worked out for me.”
Laidlaw is excited about moving to one of Europe’s biggest clubs and also feels the move could prolong his career.
“Morgan Parra is still there, although not in the French squad right now, so I’m not going to be playing 80 minutes every week, and I’ve played a lot of rugby at Gloucester,” he said.
“It’s the chance to go into a different league again. I’ve played the PRO12 and the Premiership and I think I’d have regretted it for the rest of my life if I hadn’t taken this opportunity.”
He had talked to former Clermont coach Cotter before making his decision, and there was certainly a tinge of regret on Laidlaw’s part that the New Zealander is moving on.
“It was outwith the players’ control,” he continued. “Scottish Rugby feel that they want a Scottish coach, they feel the time is right and it’s the decision they made so we go with that.
“Gregor’s had success in the recent past with Glasgow and he’s done a good job there. These things happen in the game.”
Many in the current group, himself included, did feel they owed much to Cotter, he added.
“When the time comes, the boys will definitely thank Vern for what he’s done for us as a group and as individuals,” he said. “As players we just have to try and keep playing well and win games, but we’ll be determined to send Vern off in the best way possible simply because he has helped us with our game and moved things forward.
“For me he’s helped in terms of understanding from a half back’s perspective. He’s really helped me in controlling the game, when to keep playing and when to kick.
“He knows the game inside out and people like him and Jason O’Halloran, who is a very clever coach, have helped develop us. I’m sure if you asked Finn (Russell) the same question you’d get the same answer.”
The change of head coach had not been a discussion amongst the players quite yet, he added.
“We’ve just talked about these three games and what we need to do to get in the best possible position for the Six Nations,” he said. “We also want to win these games. If we win we’ll take confidence going into the Six Nations.”
Australia are first up and once again Scotland are confronted with the heartbreak of their last meeting with the Wallabies, in last year’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
“It’ll be a bit strange, this is first time playing against them again, but the way that match unfolded, (the problem) wasn’t really the Australians, was it?” he said.
“We can’t get caught up in that moment, we can use it, but we don’t want it to haunt us.
“Nothing will ever make up for it, the chance to be in a semi-final was massive, and we’ve talked about that as a group of players, it was only those there at the time given that opportunity.
“You look at the squad now and there’s a few players who played that day who are not in the squad now.
“It’s always changing but what stays the same is we want to win, to beat good opposition and we have another crack against Australia who’ve been on a bit of a sticky patch, although in their last couple of games they’re starting to play a lot better.”