Greig Laidlaw looking for salvation in London

Greig Laidlaw says players have seen what Vern Cotter is all about
Greig Laidlaw says players have seen what Vern Cotter is all about
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In one notable respect, Scotland enter a last-chance saloon when visiting Twickenham for a Calcutta Cup clash with England on Saturday.

Already it is 32 long years since the previous tartan triumph there and another defeat would mean eventually surpassing the 33-year gap between the 1938 victory and that of 1971 at least in Five/Six Nations terms. To put matters into further perspective, only Euan Murray, of the likely Scottish line-up, was born at the time of the 1983 success.

But, in some ways, this is an ideal fixture for the Scots as updating the history books would give a so far traumatic season a strong element of salvation.

The point is not lost on Greig Laidlaw who, almost certainly, will captain the side hoping to have his name engraved on the venerable trophy at full-time, not that individual immortality is any sort of incentive over team fortunes.

“Yes, some people would look at it as a successful season and it would go a long way to helping us out,” said Laidlaw when invited to ponder how many wrongs could be righted at a stroke. “Any game is an ideal one to bounce back in.

“History is hugely important and to win would be magnificent but whoever we play after any defeat it is vitally important. There is probably added spice, though, because it is England.”

While Sean Maitland attempted earlier this week to play down fall-out in terms of coaching angst from defeat by Italy, at least for the written media, Laidlaw was impressively up front.

“We are pretty much back on an even keel. We’ve had it from the coaches and rightly so.

“The message is that it’s not so much what the other teams have been doing. We have not been outclassed, rather we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot. If we bring that under control we will be in a better position to close out these games and get on the right side of a positive result.

“We have seen both sides of Vern (Cotter). He is a hard man with high standards. He is on our case, that’s for sure, and he is on my case as well.

“We have certainly seen what he is all about this week. That’s good. We know what is expected of us. He is level headed at the same time.

“He is very clever and some of the analysis he has done has been done in a very clever way.

“The whole stadium relaxed when we won that penalty at the scrum late on against Italy and then unfortunately we made a couple of daft mistakes.

“It has all been seen and said but we missed touch and then gave away a penalty in the middle of the field.

“Probably it would have been better to have let them have the ball and batten the defence from 50 metres out. Instead we give them a penalty and they put it into touch and we are under the pump again.

“We need to learn and learn quickly.

“England pride themselves on their maul, line-out and scrum. On top of that they put a lot of emphasis on defence by getting a lot of numbers on the front line and trying to squeeze teams into their own half.

“They can get their maul game going once they kick to touch. England are good players. They have a lot of good players and a couple with the X factor.”

It was then Laidlaw pinpointed major threats as No. 8 Billy Vunipola and brother Mako, a replacement last time.

“The Vunipolas are big strong carriers,” said the scrum half, adding: “We have good players also and I fully believe we can match them if we turn up and play to the best of our ability.

“There’s been glimpses but we need an 80 minute performance.

“We can win. I have always thought that. They are not invincible.”