Laidlaw focused on Perpignan – not his future

Greig Laidlaw in training.  Pic: Ian Rutherford
Greig Laidlaw in training. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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Greig Laidlaw has revealed that discussions on his rugby future are underway but the scrum half remains totally focused on his Edinburgh team’s crucial Heineken European Cup clash with Perpignan at Murrayfield tomorrow (6.00pm).

“We’ll wait and see. Things are on the go but we’ll have to see what happens (regarding his next contract)” is the message from Laidlaw who, as a versatile internationalist with 24 caps and prolific goal-kicker, is bound to be a prime target for Edinburgh’s re-signing policy, if not other teams all over Europe.

On the subject of what is at stake in the second-last pool clash, Laidlaw is more forthcoming though careful to couple any knock-out qualification hopes with mention of the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup consolation prize.

That’s because a victory by a try bonus point for Edinburgh’s final-round opponents, Munster, at Gloucester would make qualification for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals impossible ahead of any showdown in Limerick.

Says Laidlaw: “We want to beat Perpignan and keep it going to the last game. Our aim is to make it a cracking game over in Munster.”

Those remarks tie in with Laidlaw’s stated goals: “I really want to win this weekend as we’ve still got a chance to get through if not in Heineken Cup then in the Amlin.

“I want to see us push on in either European competition and also get Edinburgh into the top four of the league and the play-offs.”

Edinburgh lie eighth in the RaboDirect PRO League, 15 points adrift of the fourth-placed team but with a game in hand. “It’s going to be tough but if we get our home form right we might just succeed” added Laidlaw.

This will be Laidlaw’s 12th encounter with French opposition and he has won more than he’s lost. So, it is with an element of experience he insists that the fact Perpignan are struggling to qualify might make them more dangerous on this one-off occasion.

This flies in the face of contemporary wisdom that French teams, in particular, tend to immediately re-focus on domestic matters when Euro hopes die but Laidlaw is adamant, saying: “From what I’ve found it isn’t always the case that the heart goes out of French teams (once they are effectively out of contention).

“Perpignan have good players throughout. They have a strong pack and good players behind.

“Perpignan won against Bayonne last weekend and it was a big win for them. They were starting to slip down the Top 14 a bit so they’ll take a bit of confidence from that. They are coming over here with nothing to lose. We have to be wary.

“We have to concentrate on getting our own end of things right.

“Up front we have to be solid.

“If our set piece is right that can get us into the game. If we don’t they will get their big boys on front foot and then they become hard to contain.

“There’s a lot of respect for Prepignan who, if they take their big men off at any stage, have more big men lined up to replace them.”

The Gloucester v Munster match kicks off at the same time and Laidlaw says any need for Edinburgh bonus points will be secondary to achieving the primary win.

“We need to win firstly and then worry about anything else. We need to get out in front and build a lead. If we get in a strong position we can then start to open out and look for four tries,” he says.

While Perpignan travel fresh from a domestic league win over rivals who took the scalp of Toulouse a week earlier, Edinburgh have had to wait to start their 2014 campaign due to the cancellation of the Ne’erday encounter in Glasgow due to flooding.

Laidlaw believes that could assist his team in their Euro quest. “At the time, the cancellation in Glasgow was very frustrating but maybe it is a blessing in disguise. We are very fresh coming into this game and have everybody fit from the start of the week.

“In this day and age that’s a luxury!”

Meanwhile, not even the prospect of an impending Six Nations Championship can distract Laidlaw although he does acknowledge a forthcoming trip across the Irish Sea beyond the concluding sectional with Munster.

It is at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium that the Scotland side Laidlaw captained against South Africa midway through the Autumn Test series will begin their Six Nations challenge.

This will be Ireland’s first outing since seeing a first-ever victory against New Zealand snatched away in the final play.

Could that have a hangover effect which Scotland can benefit from? “It’s going to be an interesting Six Nations; tough to call and one I’m really excited about. Ireland played very well against New Zealand and got pipped at the end which must have been hard to take.

“They will be looking forward to getting that sorted out and afterwards come England for us. That’s always special for Scottish people; we’ll be looking to make it extra special.

“However, the Six Nations is still some way down the track and next up are Perpignan.”

Since December 2010 only Racing Metro, among French rivals, have travelled to Edinburgh for a pool game and that fixture always evokes memories of the remarkable 48-47 home triumph as the ball was flung about with reckless abandon.

Might the ingredients be there for a similar scoreline tomorrow?

“I don’t think there will ever be another game quite like that one against Metro. It was a one-off and great to be involved in. We have tended to do well against French teams – Toulouse, Metro, Castres, Stade Francais, we have all put away.”

And, of course, there was the 40-17 rout of Perpignan in 2005 featuring a try by Ally Dickinson, now back in his second stint with Edinburgh.