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Border raiderLaidlaw in position to relive history

His new coach has warmly described Greig Laidlaw as a French-style scrum-half but, while he accepted the compliment gratefully, the man who makes his first Test start in his preferred position on Saturday knows there is a better place for Scottish scrum-halves to come from.

The last time someone from Jedburgh wore a No.9 jersey in a championship match was the day Gary Armstrong, arguably his country's greatest ever player, led his side to the win in Paris which ultimately secured Scotland's last title triumph.

Armstrong was also the scrum-half throughout the 1990 grand slam campaign while, six years earlier, the man he replaced for Jed-Forest and Scotland who is known to Laidlaw as uncle Roy, did the same job for the 1984 grand slam winners.

Perhaps even more relevant, though, is that Roy was scrum-half the last time a victory was recorded in England's national stadium, some 30 years ago.

Only four Scotland teams have done so since Twickenham was opened in 1910 and it should be an added incentive that all of them were special teams beyond that achievement in itself.

The 1926 team had claimed Scotland's first grand slam, kicking off three straight title wins; Wilson Shaw's match in 1938 also brought a Triple Crown; in 1971 an unmatchable double was achieved with wins over England twice on successive weekends; and the 1983 team won Scotland's second grand slam the following year.

Since Armstrong was Scotland's scrum-half last time they got any sort of result in London, a draw back in 1989, Laidlaw is meanwhile entitled to consider himself as coming from even finer stock than any French scrum-half as he indicated when asked about attempting to emulate his kin and townsmen. "That wouldn't go far wrong . . . there have been a couple of crackers in the past," he said chirpily.

Certainly few can ever have had relevant advice more readily available. According to legend the older Laidlaw was, in those amateur times, to be found rewiring public lavatories in Jedburgh the day after his greatest success in 1984 and little, it seems, has changed. "He was round the other day . . . moving some plugs for me. He's back on the tools these days!" grinned his nephew. We had a good chat. That's their piece of history and it was a fantastic team back in those days."

The 1983 team is hoping to mark the anniversary in style it seems. "Most of them are going down this weekend so hopefully we can make their weekend that little bit better," said Laidlaw, gleefully adding that his uncle is somewhat relieved that, having started that season as captain, he had been replaced in the role come the campaign's end by Jim Aitken, who is consequently picking up the added costs that now entails.

As for what he can learn from their discussions, it seems to have been more about relevant emotions than technicalities.

"The game has changed and someone like my uncle Roy understands that but he probably doesn't know the influence he can still have on myself by speaking about times gone by," Laidlaw added. "It's still England v Scotland at the highest level and one day he played at that highest level so, of course, you can take things from that.

"We never really talked specifics, just his memories and the likes. He says he struggled to remember the game but the main point I took away from it is they went down there and believed in themselves and that's exactly what we have to do.

"They had good players, as I feel we do, and England had a good team at the time as they have now. It can be done, of course it can. That's the main thing I took away . . . believe in yourself and your team-mates and if we do that we'll give ourselves the best possible chance."

Having won 11 of his 13 caps as a stand-in stand off, then, it seems that there could be no better time for a man named Laidlaw to take on the added responsibility of vice-captaincy playing in the position that gets hold of the ball most. Particularly so when one thing that has not changed in the past 30 years, and the 100 and more before that, is an understanding of the most straightforward aspect of playing winning rugby.

"First and foremost it's down to the basics," Laidlaw noted. "If you look at England's game against NZ their basics were good that day and it's about getting into their half, especially away from home, early doors so they don't build pressure on us. It's important we have territory, especially down there."

Most fundamental of all, though, as the class of '83 can testify, is that if the ball gets into Laidlaw's hands often enough there is a real chance of history being made.

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