Rugby - Brown seeks help from Laidlaw

Scotland skipper Kelly Brown insists he never feared losing the captaincy to scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.

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Rugby - Brown seeks help from Laidlaw
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Kelly Brown will skipper Scotland for the 10th time against Japan

The Saracens back-row forward missed the Dark Blues' final two games of their summer tour to South Africa after injuring his ankle in the quadrangular tournament's opener with Samoa.

But he is now back to lead the side out against Japan as the Brave Blossoms arrive in Edinburgh for the first of the Scots' three Autumn Tests at Murrayfield on Saturday.

However, while he underwent surgery which ruled him out of action until the end of September, number nine Laidlaw took over the captain's duties and put in two towering displays in Brown's absence.

F irst the Edinburgh half-back performed bravely against the Springboks as they lost 30-17 before kicking 17 points - including a last-gasp conversion - to secure a narrow 30-29 win over Italy.

But Brown, who will captain the side for the 10th time at the weekend, does not see his team-mate as a threat to his position.

He told Press Association Sport: "I see Greig and I as being a leadership team. It was great to see him taking on the role during the summer after my injury and he did a fantastic job.

"I have no doubt we will speak as a pair and work as a team to lead Scotland as best we can.

"Without a shadow of a doubt it's better that we have two characters in the side prepared to be leaders rather than just one captain.

"But it's not just Greig, we have also got other leaders in the squad such as Ryan Grant. We all speak and discuss things to work out the best way to take the side forward."

Scotland lost their opening match of the summer tour 27-17 to the Samoans but the defeat was even more painful for Brown as he tore ankle ligaments.

"It was hard missing those last two games in South Africa, especially because the side played really well in those matches," said the skipper.

"I always wanted to be involved in games like that but I all I could do was focus on working hard on rehab. I'm now fit again and it's a huge honour to be asked to captain the side again.

"I was very lucky in that I got my first injury in my eighth season as a pro. I have been lucky. But in our game unfortunately injuries are just part and parcel of life.

"It wasn't ideal but I just accepted that it was something I've got to go through from time to time.

"I'm not great watching games but in a funny way I actually enjoy the rehab process because I am quite a stubborn guy and I enjoy the challenge of that."

The Scots will follow Saturday's test with tougher encounters against South Africa on November 17 and Australia six days later.

However, with the Scots eyeing the World Cup in 2015, Brown insists their first opponents will not make life easy as they kick-off their preparations.

He said: "These games are really important with the Six Nations and World Cup after that to consider.

"We need to look to improve every time we play. We say that every time we train. When we walk off the pitch, we want to be better players and better as a team than when we walked on it. That is the same with these three Tests coming up.

"But Japan will be a tough one for us. They have got some really good athletes and play a fast game. We are expecting them to want to play and move the ball around.

"Over the years, though, they have grown in all aspects of the game and have a very good set-piece and we will have to be on our guard. "

Meanwhile, SRU bosses have confirmed they have had to call in specialists after discovering a parasite living in the Murrayfield pitch.

The naturally-occurring nematodes are known to damage the grass root structure but SRU ground staff are already working on a solution and officials have stressed there is no danger to Saturday's match going ahead.

SRU director of management services Mark Laidlaw said: "A soil examination in September revealed an excessive build up pf nematodes which have caused significant root damage.

"The result is a shallow and weakened root network and, though it continues to perform well in play, it can weaken under the significant pressure exerted by scrums.

"We've worked with some of the leading experts in this area to examine and treat one of the best surfaces in world rugby using natural remedies, including the spraying of garlic, but it takes a number of weeks to eradicate the problem and then to recover root strength.

"The ground staff will continue their efforts to develop and consolidate the root structure, and hope to return the pitch to the standard we all expect to see at the national stadium."

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