EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Gregor Townsend said scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw was disappointed with being dropped for Saturday’s home Six Nations clash with Wales, but the Scotland coach wants to give Ali Price the chance to play for a World Cup starting berth.
Captain Laidlaw, 33, was surprisingly dropped to the bench for the visit of unbeaten Wales, with Price playing his way into the side after some excellent displays for Glasgow Warriors.
It is a bold move from Townsend to axe Laidlaw so close to this year’s World Cup in Japan, but says the experienced number nine will come off the bench at some stage at the weekend.
“As you’d expect from someone who really wants to play for Scotland, he was disappointed,” Townsend told reporters.
“He is determined to show that he should be starting and he has been very professional in the build-up. He is still a key leader and he gives us leadership on the bench. He will have an important part to play on Saturday.”
Townsend says he found it hard to ignore the form of Price, 25, who is Laidlaw’s long-term successor at scrumhalf.
“It isn’t a reflection on how Greig is playing, it is a reflection of how Ali has been going. Ali deserved an opportunity to start at some stage and we believe this weekend is the right time to do it.”
Townsend added that Price’s ability to get the ball into the hands of team mates at a faster pace could be key to ending Wales’ 12-game winning run.
“Ali is one of the best in the game at moving the ball away quickly, through his own speed and also by the accuracy of his pass,” he said.
“He has other parts too, and I think his kicking has been good this season.
“Greig can play fast too. A lot of our better moments in the Six Nations have been with him at nine.”
The return of Finn Russell at flyhalf has afforded Townsend the opportunity to have a less experienced number nine.
“We feel at this stage this team gives us a better chance of winning this weekend with Ali starting and Greig off the bench, but it also gives us an opportunity to look at someone who has been playing really well in a year when we have another tournament around the corner.”
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)