IF Finn Russell was Scotland’s stand-out performer last week against England then there were a couple who ran him close for star billing, including his half-back partner Greig Laidlaw.

Grand Slam winner Gary Armstrong, arguably Scotland’s best ever scrum-half, believes Laidlaw produced what was probably his finest display for the national team during that Calcutta Cup victory.

“It says a lot for Greig, after the year he had in 2017 and the start he made to this Six Nations championship that he’s bounced back to produce an impeccable performance last week,” said Armstrong, who also helped Scotland claim the last Five Nations title.

“In terms of playing for Scotland, last year was pretty much written off through injury for Greig and that gave Ali Price the chance to come in and claim the No 9 shirt as his own.

“But things didn’t go well for Price down in Wales, although to be fair, things didn’t go well for anyone that day. So Greig found himself back in the mix.

“He played well against the French, and kicked us to victory that day. But he was outstanding against England. While there were quite a few players who excelled, I think the pressure and control Scotland displayed against the English, was entirely down to Laidlaw and Russell running and dictating the show.”

While Price may have been flavour of the month a few weeks back, Armstrong says Laidlaw was never too far removed from coach Gregor Townsend’s thinking.

“Gregor likes to try fresh ideas, new thinking, different tactics,” he said. “But he will always have a place in his planning for players who have executed before, in the tough games, players with stacks of experience. And Greig ticks all those boxes.

“He handles pressure well. You see that as a place kicker, time and again. But where you don’t see it is when the

opposition back row come looking for him, trying to squeeze him for time and space. Again, Greig goes about his

business with supreme calm and

confidence. That he made it look easy at times against England was all down to how well he was playing and how well he was reading the situation.”

Armstrong continued: “There were many – and I was maybe one of them – who wondered how Greig might fare when having to play in the style Gregor dictates – fast and furious.

“Greig, for me, had become predictable under Vern Cotter, slowing the game down too often, instead of adding another burst of pace.

“But, he looks perfectly at ease conducting Toony’s game plan. The most noticeable change for me was how often he passed straight from the base of a ruck, and straight off a line-out or maul. I think when Cotter was at the helm, Greig would take a couple of steps, then pass.

“That cramped him for time, and, brought the opposition fringe defence up that bit quicker. There was none of that against England. Scotland were running flat on to the ball and knocking England back, so when Greig decided to go on his own, he always had that element of surprise. It worked well.”

If England posed problems and questions that needed answering a week ago, so the Irish will test the Clermont Auvergne No 9 to the full on Saturday.

Armstrong said: “Scotland go to Dublin with as good a chance of winning as they’ve had for some time, and whether they do so or not will depend so much on what happens with Laidlaw and Finn Russell, up against their Irish counterparts, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.

“Murray is a big guy, very physical and confrontational. But for me he is predictable.

“The key for Laidlaw and Russell is to keep the Irish half-backs occupied, turning them, and having them thinking more about what Scotland will try next, rather than how the Irish can take the game to the Scots.”