BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
He squeezed over for a crucial try on the last occasion Scotland won at Twickenham and is the proud uncle of the current captain of the national team, so there is no surprise that Roy Laidlaw will have more than a passing interest in today’s World Cup quarter-final against Australia.
However, the 1984 Grand Slam hero will not be joining the tens of thousands of Scots marching on London for the mouthwatering match or even those congregating in front of large screens in the pubs and clubs up and down the country seeking the benefit of some liquid refreshments to calm their nerves.
“I’m not going down,” he said earlier this week as the tension and excitement started to build. “I’ll just watch it at home. I don’t like watching the rugby at the pub or anything, you get too many distractions. I’ll be watching it at home and, obviously, I’ll be very nervous about the game.”
At least the legendary scrum-half, who earned 47 caps for Scotland spanning one of the country’s most successful spells ever, will be able to take in more of the game than he managed last weekend, when nephew Greig superbly steered the nation into the quarter-finals. The nerve-shredding 36-33 victory over Samoa clashed with a family wedding, leaving guests – including Greig’s parents – crowding round mobile phones for updates.
“Greig’s mum and dad were at the same wedding; it was my brother’s daughter that was getting married,” he explained. “When we got to the reception we were sitting round getting 10-minute updates. It was gey exciting, I must admit.
“I watched the game on Sunday and I was nervous watching it, and I knew the score!”
As well as forming a formidable half-back partnership with the iconic John Rutherford for Scotland, Laidlaw made four Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions on their tour to New Zealand in the summer of 1983. Earlier that same year, Scotland had celebrated a victory over England at Twickenham, a triumph on Auld Enemy soil so rare that it remains the nation’s last success there. How ironic, then, if that now 32-year-old curse in south-west London was to be broken against a different opposition.
“It’s almost impossible for Scotland to beat England down there, but we managed to do it that day – and we had a grand party after it, I remember that!
“It’s a neutral venue. I don’t know if there will be a big enough contingent of Scots to outshout the Aussies or not but I’m sure both teams will be well supported. I don’t think there will be much of an advantage or disadvantage there.”
If Scotland are to pull off a famous shock win then it will almost certainly require a huge performance from Laidlaw’s nephew, Greig, as the lionhearted leader of a team that has gone as far as predicted and is now not expected to go any further.
Yet, history is peppered with momentous performances by Scotland against the gold and green of Australia, in a way that has proved impossible against the All Blacks of New Zealand. Laidlaw and his team-mates secured a 12-7 success against the Wallabies on tour Down Under in 1982, a victory that was followed by 16 straight defeats over 27 long years before the losing sequence was broken with a 9-8 triumph at Murrayfield in 2009. The 9-6 win in 2012 that followed ensures there are more than a handful in dark blue who have tasted victory over this afternoon’s opponents.
“Australia have been the best team that I’ve seen at this World Cup,” admits Laidlaw. “The are very good at the moment and they’ve had periods of that before, but they don’t seem to have what New Zealand have over us, or even England. Quite a lot of the team will have played against Australia and beaten them.
“When I played, we went on tour to Australia in 1982 and beat them over there and we also beat them at Murrayfield. The South beat the Saturday team at Hawick as well. We’ve certainly had more success against the Aussies than we’ve had against New Zealand.”
What the nation would give for another of those victories today.