Usually, a Lions call-up is something that is celebrated wildly by a player, with their performances deemed worthy of a call-up to the most high profile touring party on the planet. It is usually due to an injury, or in the case of Greg Laidlaw, something much worse.
Laidlaw will take the place of England’s Ben Youngs following the tragic announcement that his brother’s wife has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Laidlaw, while proud, would not have wanted to ascend to the squad in such a way.
Warren Gatland‘s cited the injury Laidlaw sustained during the Six Nations as reason for his initial exclusion–the Scot was supposed to be out for 11 weeks. He managed to return three weeks early, but his performances in that time weren’t deemed worthy for selection.
His performances in the Six Nations were outstanding, and he seemed to be leading Scotland forward before his untimely injury. His most outstanding display came abasing Ireland, as the Scots claimed a vital and impressive win.
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) 8 May 2017
Laidlaw notched three conversions and two penalties as he led from the front. Scoring the winning points from two penalties in the final 10 minutes was a fitting end to a game he controlled. This made Laidlaw’s ankle injury in the 22-16 defeat to France all the more worse. He was almost robbed of a Lions place at the peak of his ability.
His high performances in the Six Nations are the main reason he was chosen above any other scrum-half, while his ability to kick means Gatland will have no shortage of players able to use their boot.
Along with his kicking, Laidlaw is a very clever player. Fast and agile, he is as dangerous at the base of a ruck as he is when running into space. Much like Youngs, if he sees a gap he will dart towards it, looking to make vital yards.
However, where Gatland’s squad will really benefit is from the Scot’s big personality.
His Gloucester teammate Matt Scott said:
He was devastated to get injured during the Six Nations because he thought that was his chance of the Lions gone so it’s great that he has been called up.
He’s one of the most passionate guys I’ve met in rugby. It doesn’t matter if it’s a club game with nothing on the line or Scotland v England at Murrayfield, he’s the same. He hates losing and he brings that passion to every training session. He’s that sort of intense character and he’s a fantastic leader
– Matt Scott
New Zealand are the ultimate test, and while many are optimistic about the Lions’ chances, it would be foolhardy to say they will win the series against the All Blacks. With the immense talent in the touring party, a sole victory is not totally out of the question. As Scott said:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a club game with nothing on the line or Scotland v England at Murrayfield, he’s the same. He hates losing.”
This drive to be successful is something that will be vital for the Lions; Laidlaw knows what it’s like to be the underdog. Perhaps the likes of Connor Murray and Rhys Webb are better scrum-halfs than the Scotsman, but his massive personality will play a pivotal role off the pitch.
While many have assumed that he will play a supporting role, the scrum-half is looking to disrupt any pre-conceived notions of Gatland’s squad:
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) 8 May 2017