Scotland vice-captain Greig Laidlaw has announced his retirement from international rugby at the age of 34.
The scrum-half joins former captain John Barclay and the country’s fourth all-time leading tryscorer Tommy Seymour in calling an end to his international career.
Captaining Scotland a record 39 times in his 76 caps, the Clermont Auvergne back said the time felt right looking back on all he had achieved.
“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.
“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 BT Murrayfield, is incredibly hard.
“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.
“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. Your support was always appreciated, from messages on social media to being at the stadium, or just stopping to chat on the street.”
Laidlaw lost the Scotland captaincy to hooker Stuart McInally earlier this year in the Six Nations, while also battling, as he always has done, for his place in the line-up with Ali Price and George Horne for competition.
However, after Scotland’s pool-stage exit at the World Cup in Japan, talk of a ‘rebuild’ for France in 2023 has dominated the country’s rugby, with star full-back Stuart Hogg backing Gregor Townsend to continue as head coach.
For Laidlaw now, he can look to add to his accolades which saw him nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award in 2015 and tour New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions two years later.
Clermont occupy third place in a tightly-contested Top 14, with three points separating the 2017 domestic and European champions from Bayonne in tenth.