Former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw has confirmed his international retirement.
The 34-year-old Clermont scrum-half skippered the side in 39 out of his 76 international appearances, more times than any other player, and is Scotland’s second-highest point scorer with 714.
“Emotionally, this decision was incredibly tough however, when I reflected on what I have learned from playing Test level rugby and where Scotland is as a national team, it makes sense,” he said in a statement released by Scotland Rugby.
READ Greig Laidlaw, Scotland’s most capped Captain and the country’s second all-time points’ scorer has today brought an end to his International rugby career.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) December 19, 2019
Laidlaw is the third Scotland player to announce retirement from international rugby following the World Cup, along with flanker John Barclay, another former captain, and wing Tommy Seymour.
Laidlaw, who was included in the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to New Zealand in 2017, admitted it had been a tough decision.
“Captaining your country to victory is the stuff of childhood dreams. To say I will never again stand in the tunnel, filled with nerves, alongside my rugby family and lead my teammates out on to the pitch at Murrayfield, is incredibly hard,” he said.
“While my body and heart could continue playing, my head tells me that it’s time to let the team rebuild.
“In terms of where Scotland is now, they are in a position to spring forward and I cannot wait to give them my full support from the stands.”
“To the Scotland coaches and backroom staff over the years who dedicate hours behind the scenes to prepare the team collectively and as individuals, I thank you.
“To the people who have helped me achieve my dreams: my team-mates, my parents, sister, family, close friends and my incredible wife, Rachel, and our sons, I will be forever thankful for all the support you have shown me over the years; you have stuck by me through thick and thin.
A post shared by Scotlandteam (@scotlandteam) on Dec 19, 2019 at 4:19am PST
“I’d also like to thank Scottish Rugby and the staff behind the scenes who have both supported me as captain and a player and enabled the team to perform in front of capacity crowds.
“And finally, a massive thanks to the Scotland supporters both in Scotland and abroad for sharing the rollercoaster ride of international rugby with me.”
Laidlaw played three times at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where Scotland failed to progress through to the knockout stage.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend paid tribute to Laidlaw’s dedication to the dark blue jersey.
“Greig has been an outstanding servant for Scottish rugby, through the passion and skill he displayed when wearing the thistle on his chest and also on the many occasions he led the side,” Townsend said.
“That he began his Scotland career at stand-off before claiming the number nine jersey shows what an exceptional rugby player he is and was for Scotland and, to be captain on so many occasions, rightly places him alongside the best players to ever led the national team.”