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Lions' Laidlaw keen to grab late chance

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017 Angelo Risso

Barely six weeks ago, Scottish halfback and skipper Greig Laidlaw was looking ahead at a rugby-less northern summer. © David Davies/Press Association Barely six weeks ago, Scottish halfback and skipper Greig Laidlaw was looking ahead at a rugby-less northern summer. Barely six weeks ago, Scottish halfback and skipper Greig Laidlaw was looking ahead at a rugby-less northern summer.

Yet fast forward to the present day - and 18,000 kilometres across the globe - and the wily No.9 is being mooted as a mid-week captain of the British and Irish Lions.

The 31-year-old Laidlaw was originally omitted from coach Warren Gatland's 41-man Lions squad for their 10-match New Zealand tour, but found himself back amongst the fray this month after the late withdrawal of English halfback Ben Youngs.

With Youngs withdrawing due to his sister-in-law's terminal illness, it was hardly a moment of celebration for the Clermont Auvergne-bound playmaker.

But after being one of the first Lions to report for duty at Gatland's training camp in Cardiff last month, Laidlaw is primed for a leadership role in Saturday's tour opener against the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.

Laidlaw scoffed at suggestions he could skipper the Lions if incumbent Sam Warburton was rested at any point, as proposed by former Scotland boss Vern Cotter this week.

Yet he is a near-certainty to play some part in Northland, and hopes to press his claim for a Test No.9 shirt over Irish ace Conor Murray or Welshman Rhys Webb.

He will also need to play his way back into form after suffering ankle ligament damage in February and missing Scotland's final three Six Nations games.

"It was difficult circumstances and I think everybody knows that, after that, it was a rugby opportunity for myself - it was good for me to be in (camp) from the start, I've really tried hard to add value to the group," Laidlaw said.

"It's up to me to show what I'm all about.

"It's going to suit me, the rugby in this part of the world - it's high-tempo, played in the right way, and if we're going to win games we need to play well."

Just one of three Scots in camp alongside Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, Laidlaw admitted the Lions' training sessions had been scratchy in places but were coming together nicely after the arrival of several players from their clubs.

He knew little of the Barbarians' playing group - bar Bryn Gatland at first-five - but expected them to stick to their customary adventurous style.

"They're going to come together and I'm sure they'll give it a rip, because that's the Barbarians style all throughout the world," Laidlaw said.

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