Rugby: Laidlaw eager to join the European centurion club

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Edinburgh Rugby captain Greig Laidlaw will be on a double mission tomorrow when looking to pilot his side to a winning start against Saracens and join an elite group of club points centurions in the Heineken European Cup.

Stand off Laidlaw goes into action on 99 points and a single penalty would see him overtake Phil Godman (101) to close the gap on Brendan Laney (128), Duncan Hodge (228) and Chris Paterson (276).

When told the situation by the Evening News this week, Laidlaw said: “I never knew I was on 99 points and it would be great to look back one day and see my name on a list with the other century makers.

“I always practised away in the background as a kicker even when Mossy (Chris Paterson) was here. I knew one day I might get a chance and I wanted to be ready to take that chance.”

Edinburgh have never faced Saracens in a competitive match – substitute Allan Jacobsen is the only home survivor of a 35-19 friendly win at Goldenacre in 2001 – but Laidlaw is well acquainted with some rivals from his role in last season’s Calcutta Cup encounter with England.

“Saracens have some great players, among the best in Europe and we have to be at our best and understand that to win these games we need to do the small things well time and again,” he said.

Remarkably, in view of the way his career has subsequently rocketed, Laidlaw didn’t merit a starting spot when Edinburgh kicked off their memorable 2011-12 European campaign with a victory at London Irish.

One player who was there, Grant Gilchrist, was making a tournament debut and feels that both he and the team have now to step up a level.

“London Irish certainly didn’t expect us to give them the problems we did and when you win a close game that could have gone either way it provides the confidence to go forward.

“That win spurred us on as a team and I’m more experienced a year on. I now want to stand out as a player who does a job for the team.

“I want to put pressure on myself and overall defence is going to be the key against Saracens along with good discipline to stop the opposition getting cheap points.

“But there is no disguising the fact that when we get our pace up we can cut through anybody and score tries which is what we’ll try to do.”

Last weekend saw Edinburgh slip up at home to Treviso in the league but here it is maybe as well to pause and remember that in the inaugural European campaign of 1996-97 Edinburgh went down 23-43 to these Italians at Myreside.

In other words, 
Treviso have a pedigree suggesting that while Edinburgh disappointment is justified there is no need to don the hair shirt as yet.

Certainly Matt Scott took comfort from the fact that three tries were scored and said: “Saracens are used to playing in the Premiership where it is very safe and there’s a lot of kicking.

“They might not be used to the style of rugby we play and I am hoping we can catch them out.”

Speaking on Talksport radio this week coach Michael Bradley acknowledged that with the element of surprise which worked in Edinburgh’s favour on their march to the last Euro semi-final is no longer there.

But Bradley is adamant that his team will dig deeper to offset the fact that they are now a team to be watched out for.

“The element of surprise will be gone in relation to Edinburgh rugby this year but that is a good challenge for us,” said Bradley. “We have a young squad and our players are a year older and wiser. They have also had the experience of playing in semi-final against Ulster, a match we could have won.”