Greig Laidlaw has insisted the individual records of the British and Irish Lions’ four nations will carry precious little weight on a gruelling tour of New Zealand.
Scotland scrum-half Laidlaw hailed head coach Warren Gatland’s status as a series-winning Lions boss, in the wake of a warning over coaching style from Eddie Jones.
England boss Jones has warned that the Lions could come unstuck in New Zealand if they mimic Wales’ playing style, but Laidlaw believes the 2017 Lions will build their own approach under experienced boss Gatland.
“What happens with national sides is not so relevant here now,” Laidlaw said. “Warren won the last Test series with the Lions, that’s a record that stands up, and that’s what he’s measured on. That’s credit to him.
“And Eddie can say what he likes, because he’s not sat in the hot seat is he? He’s got other things to worry about.”
Jones told The Telegraph’s Full Contact podcast he felt the Lions would be “looking to attack like Wales” and would “struggle to beat the All Blacks like that”.
But Clermont-bound half-back Laidlaw offered a staunch defence of Gatland’s credentials in response, citing the 2013 series win in Australia as immediate evidence of the Wales boss’ Lions prowess.
“Warren’s coaching style is very strong, very detailed,” said Laidlaw, a late call-up to replace Ben Youngs, who withdrew after his sister-in-law’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. “He’ll take a step back and stand and watch, but if he sees something he doesn’t like he certainly won’t let it slip.
“He’s a very detailed coach. He knows a fair bit about this part of the world which is key for us coming down here. So he’ll use his knowledge and experience to help the team, so if we’ve any questions we can ask him. He’s made a strong impression on the group already.
“Defence is clearly going to be a huge challenge for us here. You can’t ship too many points coming down to this part of the world, because all New Zealand teams love to play that high-tempo game, score tries, play off turnover ball.
“So the flip-side of that is that when we’ve got the ball we need to look after it, and don’t give them too much cheap possession, because they’ll love it and try to shift the ball out to space. So when it is our turn in defence we need to get numbers on feet and make sure our one-on-one tackles are good.”
Laidlaw’s former Scotland boss Vern Cotter has already tipped the 31-year-old as an ideal midweek captain for the Lions as they bid for a first series win in New Zealand since 1971. Laidlaw himself insisted however that he remains intent on proving his full worth to the Lions with the tour yet to hit full swing.
“I’ve built a good relationship with big VC [Cotter] over time with Scotland and I’ve certainly got a lot of respect for him, but whenever I’m given an opportunity it’s up to me to show what I’m all about and bring my strengths to the table,” said Laidlaw.
“So if and when I’m given an opportunity that’s what I’ll be aiming to do and give my best towards a team performance. It was good for me to be in the camp from the start and I really tried to add value to the group where I can.
“That’s something, going back to Vern, you learn from him — you only come to the table with something where you think you can add value. Otherwise you just get on with your work, play rugby and be the best player you can be. So that’s very much what I’ll be doing. And again, if I get an opportunity, it’s about me taking that opportunity.”
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Laidlaw: Eddie Jones not in Lions hot seat
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