Scottish star scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw is thrilled about embarking on a new challenge in the Top League and playing in Japan, which he thinks is "really improving."
On Wednesday, the 34-year-old was officially introduced to Japanese rugby in an online news conference held by his new club, the NTT Communications ShiningArcs.
Speaking from his home in Scotland, Laidlaw, who revealed he had signed with the Top League team for two seasons, expressed his excitement about being part of the team, which he described as possessing "world-class" facilities as well as "great professionalism" and "ambitions."
"We started talking to NTT four or five months ago, so quite a long time," Laidlaw said when asked when the negotiation process kicked off. "Obviously, with the situation and the world at the moment, we wanted to take time and make the right decision. But through NTT's professionalism, we were delighted to be able to sign.”
Although he’s going to be playing thousands of kilometers away from home this time, Laidlaw knows a little bit about playing in a foreign nation. The Edinburgh native has previously competed for Clermont Auvergne in France.
"Specifically in France, I felt it was really important to understand the culture firstly, trying to speak a little of the language, which is very important and that really helps with rugby as well," Laidlaw said. "So I'll try to embrace the culture in Japan and learn as much of the culture before I arrive. It's about hard work and being the best rugby player you can be."
Laidlaw, who has a record 39 caps as Scotland captain, described Japanese rugby as “brilliant.”
“They are trying to play very quickly, keep holding the ball, play attacking rugby, which is very positive,” said Laidlaw, who faced the Brave Blossoms in consecutive World Cups in 2015 and 2019. “And I think they are certainly trying to play the game with the right intentions. I believe there’s a lot of good coaches in the Top League as well, which helps.
"I think it’s a really good mindset to play, keep the ball, and play the attacking style of rugby. So I’m looking forward to challenging myself to be part of that and also trying to develop the attack as well.”
Acknowledging he’ll be up against world-class talent in Japan, Laidlaw said he was looking forward to playing alongside some of his new teammates such as No. 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Australian national team standout Christian Lealiifano.
“First and foremost, I’m looking forward to the players in the NTT team,” Laidlaw said.
The ShiningArcs were promoted to the Top League in 2010-11 and their best results in the final standings are a trio of fifth-place finishes. This year, the club is motivated to finish fourth or higher for the first time.
The upcoming Top League season is scheduled to begin in January.