Edinburgh Rugby captain Greig Laidlaw has hailed the appointment of Capital colleague Netani Talei as skipper of Fiji for a Test clash with Scotland next month.
Laidlaw, who intends to retain the stand-off spot for the June 16 meeting in Lautoka, would be first to acknowledge the rarity that will see Edinburgh also provide the Scots’ captain in Ross Ford and said: “I spoke to Netani before he flew back to Fiji and the captaincy honour is huge for such a proud man like him. Netani will leave nothing in the tank against Scotland, that’s for sure.”
If Laidlaw is in an ideal position to warn of the threat posed by No. 8 Talei, he could also be excused for being on a high heading into what is expected to be a fifth successive start for Scotland and an eighth cap overall when the tour gets underway against Australia on Tuesday.
After all, the 26-year-old rounded off his domestic season in a Heineken Cup semi-final at the helm of an Edinburgh team who exceeded most expectations before being edged out by Ulster at the penultimate stage.
But, paradoxically, if season 2011-12 is the best yet for Laidlaw, on his own acknowledgement it also contained bitter memories that, ever the professional, he is now using to spur him to greater heights.
“Nothing will ever make up for missing out on the World Cup,” admits Laidlaw. But, at the same time, he insists: “A trait of mine has been to use disappointment positively. The time you don’t think that way is probably the time to give up, but I feel I still have plenty left, especially for this tour,
“I’m determined to make sure what happened over World Cup selection doesn’t happen again. Back then, there was nothing else for it but to just keep going. Staying at home with Edinburgh, I just wanted to win. That is what pushes my buttons because you get a great camaraderie in the changing rooms afterwards.
“That feeling is exactly what is pushing myself and others on this tour because I want to experience it as often as possible.”
While Laidlaw doesn’t ever forget his World Cup snub he has moved on, saying: “I’m just delighted to be in the frame and pushing for a Test place, although I know Duncan (Weir) is playing well, too.
“Hopefully I’ll be picked during what will be a new experience of touring with Scotland, having last been on anything like this with the sevens squad.
“It’s great to go on tour and live rugby; while we will relax sometimes as well, it will be intense because we are going there to win.”
According to Laidlaw, the fact Scotland won the previous encounter against Australia, 9-8 at Murrayfield in 2009, means the strong possibility of a Wallaby backlash.
“Definitely Australia will be on their guard,” he adds. “They’ll be thinking they haven’t played for a while and in their own backyard there will be more pressure on them.”
What is needed now, he says, is for Edinburgh and Glasgow players to produce the form that took them into the knock-out stages of either the Heineken Cup or RaboDirect Pro12.
“We are coming off the back of good stuff from Edinburgh and Glasgow and the exiles have been doing pretty well too, so that is something we can build on. But there are class rugby players in Australia – and in Fiji and Samoa, too.
“Touring is, however, part of Scotland’s rugby culture, albeit we now need to deliver.”
Meanwhile, Alex Grove is crediting a loan spell with Edinburgh two seasons ago for enabling him to battle back into Test contention.
Grove, capped four times before returning to Worcester, says: “What I took back from Edinburgh was the benefit of a different experience.
“It was a different brand of rugby, throwing the ball around more and Edinburgh were able to do that because there is no relegation. That worked in Edinburgh’s favour if you look at the Heineken Cup. They didn’t have to worry about league position and could concentrate on Europe.
“The way Edinburgh play is exciting to watch and I like to think I took some of that back to Worcester when we were in the (second tier) Championship before getting promotion and I played in every league game this season.
“That shows you are being recognised for club form.”
Grove is aiming to force his way back into the Test side and renew a partnership with Tim Visser that flourished with Edinburgh when the Dutch-born winger becomes eligible for Scotland on residency during the Fiji leg of the trip.
“Tim is a helluva talent. You can almost just give him the ball and let him do the rest. As a centre he makes your life easy. He scores tries for fun and is somebody the islanders won’t know much about.”