Scottish Daily Mail

Spirit of Auld Alliance lives on in shape of rugby cup

Laidlaw sees off the French... then has pop at Jones

- By Gavin Madeley

IT is rare for the presentati­on of a rugby prize to garner as much interest as the match that precedes it.

But as Scotland celebrated a victory over France at BT Murrayfiel­d, the presentati­on of the Auld Alliance Trophy gave an opportunit­y for both sides to honour the war dead from their rugby communitie­s.

The trophy was contested for the first time in the centenary year of the Armistice.

Cast in silver, its name echoes the ancient pact struck between the two nations to back each other in times of conflict.

The new trophy also proudly bears the names of Scotland captain Eric ‘Puss’ Milroy and his French counterpar­t Marcel Burgun, who led their teams in the last internatio­nal match between the countries before the outbreak of the Great War.

By the war’s end, 31 Scottish and 22 French internatio­nals – including Milroy and Burgun – lay dead, along with many thousands of club players.

The trophy was unveiled by the youngest generation­s of the Milroy and Burgun families – 11-year-olds Lachlan Ross and Romain Cabanis.

The idea for the trophy stemmed from Patrick Caublot, a member of the Amiens club, together with Milroy’s greatgreat nephew David Anderson.

Mr Caublot said: ‘The trophy underlines that the spirt of the Auld Alliance will live on.’

GREIG LAIDLAW led Scotland to a hard-fought Six Nations victory over France at Murrayfiel­d yesterday before turning his sights on Eddie Jones and England.

The Scots had gone behind after only three minutes to a Teddy Thomas try and were playing catchup for most the match but simply refused to let the French get away.

Scrum-half Laidlaw was to the fore on his return to the starting line-up, kicking 22 points and even moving to No 10 after a struggling Finn Russell was hooked by head coach Gregor Townsend with 15 minutes to go.

Afterwards, he hailed the resilience of his team-mates in bouncing back from their Welsh mauling — and revealed he

was confident they could handle whatever outspoken England head coach Jones sends their way ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfiel­d in just under two weeks’ time.

‘It’s hard not to hear (him) these days,’ said Laidlaw after the 32-26 win. ‘Eddie’s got a lot to say, hasn’t he? He likes to get out there and speak, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter — it’s about when you cross the line and get into the middle of the field.

‘Last time I checked, Eddie wasn’t playing for England, so it’s about the players and implementi­ng game plans we put together.’

Jones had disparagin­gly referred to the Scots as the ‘darlings’ of the game before the Six Nations and questioned their mentality.

He also singled out two Wales players, Alun Wyn Jones and Rhys Patchell, before their clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

While it remains to be seen how he will approach the Scotland match, Laidlaw for one is looking forward to it.

He said: ‘As a Scot, there’s no better game to play in. We’ll be in front of our own people again, we can use our record here that we’re starting to put together.

‘But do we need to improve? Yes, I believe so. It will be an extremely tough match but the score’s nil-nil at the minute and the game’s yet to kick off.’

Townsend hailed Laidlaw’s influence in steering the Scots to victory and explained his thinking in switching him from scrum-half to stand-off with the score tied at 26-26, removing Russell and putting Ali Price on at No9.

‘Getting Ali on, we didn’t want to take Greig off because his goal-kicking was outstandin­g,’ said the head coach.

‘And he’s a very good 10. He jogged through a few plays in the car park this morning as preparatio­n. I’m sure that was enough prep for him!

‘We needed to keep going at the French but wanted to keep Greig on the field, to keep leading and keep kicking well.

‘You probably don’t pick up a lot of what Greig does outside of his passing and kicking. That’s managing the team. Coming in at points when we’ve conceded tries to help (captain) John Barclay.

‘You could tell Greig and Ryan Wilson had a bigger influence from how the team responded to errors. Greig made some really good decisions.’

Trailing from the third minute, Scotland didn’t draw level until well into the second half — and only took the lead inside the closing ten minutes.

A second straight erratic performanc­e from playmaker Russell remains a concern, with his basic mistakes putting Scotland in serious trouble during a worrying first half. Townsend backed the player he groomed for stardom at Glasgow, saying: ‘Finn made a few errors.

‘And I’m sure he’ll be working hard to make sure things like kicking penalties to touch, he does them better under pressure. He did some very good things in attack, but we know he can play much better.

‘We got more out of the last 20 minutes than the French, so that’s a credit to our fitness.

‘To bounce back not just after last week but a couple of setbacks, 10-0 down against a team full of confidence, concede another try and still stick at it, that’s outstandin­g.’

Townsend tempered expectatio­n ahead of England’s visit, saying: ‘It’s one game. Nobody was asking me if we could win the Championsh­ip last week.

‘We are playing arguably the best team in the world over the last two years, given the number of games they’ve won. We’ll put them under pressure and see what happens.’

 ??  ?? Prize: John Barclay and cup
Prize: John Barclay and cup
 ??  ?? Inspiratio­n: Laidlaw (right) hugs Ali Price after the victory over France
Inspiratio­n: Laidlaw (right) hugs Ali Price after the victory over France
 ??  ?? Bouncing back: Townsend played his tactics to perfection
Bouncing back: Townsend played his tactics to perfection
 ??  ??

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