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Laidlaw vows to inspire Scotland despite losing captaincy

Scrum-half recalled to face France but John Barclay will lead the team.

Greig Laidlaw may no longer be Scotland skipper but the scrum-half insists he will do his all to inspire his side to victory against France.

The Clermont Auvergne man will find himself back in a Dark Blues starting XV for the first time in a year for Sunday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash at Murrayfield.

His last Scotland start came against the French in Paris in last year’s championship, with an ankle injury then ending his tournament.

John Barclay took over the captaincy – an honour he retained when Laidlaw missed both the summer and autumn series as he was first called up by the British and Irish Lions for their tour of New Zealand and then later hit by another injury, a broken fibula.

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Greig Laidlaw (left) will have to be content with being named vice-captain after John Barclay took over as Scotland skipper

Laidlaw’s return to fitness left head coach Gregor Townsend with a dilemma on the eve of this year’s Six Nations – ultimately deciding Barclay should carry on leading the team into battle.

If that decision came as a blow, Laidlaw did well to disguise it as he faced the media this week.

And skipper or not, he will not hold back from offering guidance where necessary.

“I’ve not actually thought about it to be honest,” said the 32-year-old, when asked if it would be strange allowing someone else to lead out Scotland after 32 caps as skipper. “I’m delighted to be back in the starting team. Barcs has shown he’s a good captain and will show that again at the weekend.

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Greig Laidlaw missed Scotland's summer tour after being called up by the British and Irish Lions

“It’s about the collective – not individuals.

“I’ve always set about leading by example whenever I’ve played for Scotland and that won’t change whether I’m captain or not.

“I will be demanding high standards firstly of myself and then secondly of the players around me.

“I’ll just slip in behind Barcs this weekend and make sure the boys are ready. He’ll be up front leading and I’ll be right in behind him with the rest of the boys.

“I’ve been hammering it into the lads this week that we need to get excited and look to fill those jerseys up in front of our own people. We’ve only been beaten by New Zealand here in the past year so we are really excited to get our feet back on the ground here at Murrayfield.”

Laidlaw was only utilised off the bench last week in Cardiff and could do nothing to salvage an opening-day wreck as Wales punished the Scots’ error-strewn display with a 34-7 drubbing.

The wheels came off just five minutes in when Ali Price – the Glasgow scrum-half chosen ahead of Laidlaw – saw his mistimed pass intercepted as Gareth Davies ran in for the first of four Welsh tries.

Rivalry for a starting slot has not stopped Laidlaw putting a consoling arm round team-mate Price.

“Of course I can help Ali and I’ve spoken to him this week,” he said. “He didn’t play that badly at the weekend. A couple of things just didn’t go his way early.

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Laidlaw has backed Ali Price to bounce back after his mistake sent Scotland on the path to defeat against Wales

“Ali is always learning as a player and so am I. Whether it’s speaking to myself or someone like Mike Blair, who is invaluable in the group with his thoughts and ideas, Ali will pick himself up.

“He just wanted to get out and train this week. He’ll get back on the horse and I’m sure he’ll play a part on Sunday.”

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