Greig Laidlaw has long since epitomised what it means to play rugby for Scotland.
Versatile, passionate and tough as old boots, the fiery half-back has risen to every challenge thrown his way.
And since making his debut in 2010, Laidlaw has captained Scotland for more than half of his 66 appearances and on more occasions than any other Scottish skipper in the history of the game.
A captain, a goalkicking machine, a strategist – Laidlaw can usually be found at the heart of all things good for Scotland and will once again skipper the side for the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
Being a half-back must be part of the Laidlaw DNA as Greig is the nephew of former Scotland scrum-half Roy Laidlaw.
With 66 caps and counting, the Laidlaw family’s current representative has already surpassed his uncle’s tally and both men are successful products of Jed-Forest RFC.
Aftern his 2010 debut at No.9, Laidlaw’s maiden Championship did not arrive until two years later and the Edinburgh man was used one position out at fly-half. There the youngster raked in the points with a try, a conversion and two penalties in his first start, a 13-27 loss to Wales in 2012.
Scotland finished that Championship bottom of the pile but redemption was swift as he kicked all of Scotland’s points in the historic 9-6 victory over Australia in New South Wales later that year.
MASTER OF ALL TRADES
Laidlaw’s versatility made him a valuable asset to the team, able to play scrum-half and fly-half at a time when other players where in and out of the team and in the 2013 summer tour he became Scotland’s 113th Test match captain.
Meanwhile his club career had seen him represent his hometown club Edinburgh Rugby since 2007 where he was integral in their 2011-12 run in Europe’s top competition, captaining the side in a narrow loss to Ulster in the semi-final.
But 2014 saw him leave Scottish shores for Gloucester Rugby.
A YEAR TO REMEMBER
In 2015 Laidlaw reached his peak as he led Scotland to a World Cup quarter-final in England and earned himself a nomination for the World Player of the Year award.
Scotland came through a tough pool with wins over Japan and United States setting up a crunch match against Samoa in the final pool game in which Laidlaw scored 26 points including a crucial late try to book his side a place in the next round.
Scotland were drawn Australia in the quarter-final and despite another mammoth contribution from Laidlaw, kicking 19 points, they lost by the narrowest of margins going down 35-34.
Laidlaw’s incredible performances earned him a place on the five-man shortlist for World Player of Year alongside eventual winner and World Cup winning fly-half Dan Carter, Michael Hooper, Julian Savea, David Pocock and Alun Wyn Jones.
Only one other Scottish player has ever earned a nomination for the award, Mike Blair in 2008.
An injury brought his 2017 Six Nations Championship to a premature end but he managed to recover in time to earn his first selection for The British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand – again mirroring the feats of his uncle Roy.
And despite moving to France with Clermont, Laidlaw returned to the Scotland fold for last year’s Six Nations Championship and rolled back the years as he martialled Scotland to a first victory over England for a decade.
After being selected for the 2019 Championship, Laidlaw looks set to appear in the Championship for an eighth time and close the gap on the highest scoring Scottish player in the history of the Championship, Chris Paterson.
The Scots will be hoping that they can build on last year’s equal highest ever finish in the Six Nations era of third place and perhaps chase their illusive first-ever Guinness Six Nations trophy – if that is going to happen they will need Laidlaw at his absolute best.