by COLIN RENTON
CLERMONT AUVERGNE have signed Scotland international Greig Laidlaw on a three year deal. The news was made public on the day the scrum-half or stand-off celebrated his 31st birthday.
One of the key points of negotiation was understood to concern the club seeking Laidlaw to retire from international rugby. For now at least, he appears to have resisted pressure to do so.
Laidlaw captained Scotland at last year’s World Cup and was on a six man short list for the 2015 world player of the year award. He had been linked with the French Top 14 club earlier in the year and recently visited the Marcel Michelin stadium. The move was facilitated by Laidlaw’s agent, Jason White, who also played for the club which won the French championship under Vern Cotter in 2010.
The 53 times capped Borderer, who left Edinburgh in 2014 and signed a two year contract with Gloucester, will compete for the scrum-half berth with French international Morgan Parra. Ludovic Radosavilevic, who has been Parra’s understudy, will leave the club at the end of the season.
Laidlaw was also a signing target for Toulon and he met the club’s owner Mourad Boudjellal in Paris several months ago – however, he opted for Clermont.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Gloucester. It’s a fantastic club which enjoys tremendous support,” Laidlaw said. “The squad contains a great group of boys, I love playing at Kingsholm and it’s been a genuine honour to captain the side.”
Of the move to France next summer, he added: “At this stage of my career, the offer to test myself and develop my game even further in a different environment was just too good to turn down. It’s not been an easy decision to make, but I think it’s the right one.”
He added, “I am very pleased to be joining a club which has such an incredible history, sports facilities which are among the best in the world and a number of players of international class. I am looking forward to seeing how I will get on in this new environment in front of supporters who I know are extraordinary and in a new culture which I am looking forward to discovering. Clermont represents a great personal and sporting challenge and a great experience.”
Gloucester’s director of rugby David Humphries said of the player: “His consistent performances at both club and international level, particularly his goal-kicking, have caught the attention of some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“While we are sorry to see him go, the offer Greig received from France was too good to turn down and, at the end of the season, we will wish him all the best for the rest of his career.”
Clermont’s director of rugby Franck Azema said: “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Greig. It’s excellent news for the club which can now count on one of the best players in his position and one of the world’s best kickers.”
“Whether in the English championship or with the Scotland team, Greig has gained great experience at the highest level and developed leadership skills that will be a real asset to us next season. We are looking forward to him fitting into our style of play, and thanks to his versatility, he will be able to play in several positions.”
Meanwhile, Stuart Hogg has signed a two year contract with Glasgow Warriors which will keep him at the club until 2019.
Image: Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk