Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw admits it will be a strange feeling coming up against his former side in Friday’s European Challenge Cup final, but is sure professional instinct will kick in when the first whistle blows.
The 29-year-old scrum-half played seven years for Edinburgh between 2007 and 2014 and led them to their previous best result in Europe – the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2012.
After playing a central role in that watershed moment for Scottish rugby he will line up for Gloucester at Twickenham Stoop and be determined to prevent a historic first European trophy heading back to his homeland.
“I think it will be a bit strange at the start but once it kicks off I’ll just be focused on what is a big game – a European final,” said Laidlaw.
He added: “This is the kind of game which attracted me to move to Gloucester, ironically it is against Edinburgh which is a bit funny. But listen, regardless of the result, it’s been the right decision for me to come to Gloucester. I’ve really enjoyed my first season here.”
Much has been made of Laidlaw’s personal battle with opposite number Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – the 21-year-old whose eye-catching recent form has even sparked talk of the national skipper being deposed of a Scotland starting spot by the young pretender.
“People will talk about the match-up [with Hidalgo-Clyne],” accepted Laidlaw. “But you always have rivals at this level. There’s always been other players there. Sam has played well and will have ambitions to play for Scotland, as do I. He has come in and taken his opportunity and is certainly pushing me, but that can only be a good thing for my game. I feel I’ve played really well in Europe myself this year and I want to emulate that once again on Friday.
“It [going head to head with a national rival] can be a chance to prove a point. They’re good for people to watch and for us to play in. There has been a lot of noise made about it but I’ll concentrate on my game and playing my part for Gloucester.”
Laidlaw is well aware of what reaching a European final means to a nation where success has been hard to come by in the professional era. Nevertheless, any empathy will be put on hold for 80 minutes in south-west London.
“If we do win it will be a bit of a strange feeling. But that’s the world of professional sport,” he stressed. “I want to win things just as much as the next man and would be delighted if we do. It is a big occasion for the professional game in Scotland and that’s another reason why Edinburgh will be so pumped up. Glasgow are sitting top of the Pro12 and Edinburgh will be keen to try and win a trophy first before they do. I know how much it will mean to them but I’ll be putting my emotion to one side. Both teams really want to win the game but I’m on the Gloucester side.”
That is a feeling to the Jedburgh man’s nearest and dearest too. “My family will certainly be supporting Gloucester that’s for sure. We’re Borders people anyway,” laughed Laidlaw.
Outside of long-term injuries, Scotland No 8 David Denton is the only doubt going into Friday as he continues to undergo concussion protocols.
Assistant coach Stevie Scott said yesterday: “Jack [Cuthbert] is back training and got through it today with Greig Tonks and Hamish [Watson] which is good so David is the only one who may miss out.”