McInally can captain Scotland for ‘years to come’ – Laidlaw

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England v Scotland - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - March 16, 2019 Scotland's Stuart McInally runs in a try REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

(Reuters) – Scotland’s Stuart McInally has the leadership qualities and backing within the team to remain as skipper over the long term, vice-captain Greig Laidlaw said on Saturday.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend named McInally as his captain when announcing his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, arguing the 29-year-old Edinburgh hooker had a calming influence which brought the best out of his teammates.

“He has been an excellent leader. He does his leadership on the field, he has the full backing of the team and we respect him,” Laidlaw, who has led the national team a record 39 times, told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Pool A encounter against Ireland.

“It is good to have a fresher voice, someone newer to the role. He is going to do a fantastic job, both now and for years to come.

“It is up to the leaders around him — myself included — to give him the support he needs.”

Turning his attention to top-ranked Ireland, Laidlaw said Scotland could ill afford to lose focus in the teams’ opener at Yokohama, pointing to their 13-22 Six Nations defeat by Joe Schmidt’s side in February.

“Ireland are a smart team and they are coached extremely smartly under Joe Schmidt. We need to concentrate for 80 minutes,” Laidlaw said.

“In 2017 when we beat them, no one switched off… this year we switched off on two occasions and conceded 14 points. If you do that against Ireland, you are making a difficult job that much more difficult.”

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