Laidlaw not convinced by pairing

Former Scotland scrum-half Roy Laidlaw admits he feels a little uneasy with the half-back partnership Frank Hadden is poised to employ at the World Cup. [more]

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Former Scotland scrum-half Roy Laidlaw admits he feels a little uneasy with the half-back partnership Frank Hadden is poised to employ at the World Cup.

Chris Paterson is expected to be handed the stand-off role he has made a big play for, with Mike Blair and Chris Cusiter vying for the scrum-half spot.

Paterson, 29, who left Edinburgh to join Gloucester in July, was selected at stand-off ahead of Dan Parks for Scotland’s two warm-up matches against Ireland and South Africa.

He has won only eight of his 76 Scotland caps starting in the position, although during the RBS 6 Nations Championship earlier this year he was often switched there during games.

Laidlaw and stand-off John Rutherford played 35 Scotland matches together in the 1980s and knew each other’s game comprehensively even before teaming up at international level.

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Laidlaw, who won 47 caps, believes the key to Hadden’s national team having a successful World Cup lies in the half-back partnership and admits a reliable understanding cannot be developed in a short space of time.

"I don’t think so," he said. "I think in the professional game it can be easier and the players in question have been around each other quite a long time.

"But I always place great value on the fact John Rutherford and I came from the same area and came from the same district, and had known each other for years.

"Of course you need good players to start with. Then it’s all about communication, and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

"It’s an interesting one. The big thing with Chris is that he is a world-class goal-kicker and that’s important for Scotland.

"I don’t think we’re going to break down the big teams easily. Goal-kicking is a vital part of the game. He’s also got very good running skills.

"Even so, ideally you’d have wanted him playing more rugby at stand-off in the last few years.

"Stand-off is a massive decision-making area. It’s not ideal, but I do think he can offer us plenty from there and so can Dan Parks, who is a very astute kicker of the ball.

"Territory is not to be underestimated and it could be important to put the opposition on the back foot a bit."

Scotland fly out to France on Wednesday morning and launch their World Cup campaign against Portugal in Saint-Etienne next Sunday, September 9.

They then return to Scotland to face Romania and New Zealand, before taking on Italy back in Saint-Etienne on September 29 – a match likely to decide whether they go beyond the group stages.

Laidlaw, 53, is satisfied Scotland will have no problems in his position, with Cusiter, Blair and Rory Lawson available to Hadden.

"I think we are exceptionally well off at scrum-half," said Laidlaw. "Two of them, Blair and Cusiter, you would rate as world-class.

"It’s a pity we haven’t got the same strength in every department as we do there.

"I think Scotland have had a good preparation for the World Cup. By not having a summer tour, which I think was a good move, it has allowed them to have a break from rugby and get into good physical condition.

"I’ve been up to see them training and everyone is pulling in the same direction, which is vital. We’ve got a lot of good players, perhaps not many you would describe as world-class, but a core of four or five you would not want to be without.

"I think Frank Hadden has got the team spirit just right and now they have to go and perform.

"I’m sure they’ll treat Romania and Portugal with great respect. The New Zealand game at Murrayfield should be a terrific experience, but the big game for Scotland is the Italy game."

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