ADAM HASTINGS says he is ready to start at full-back next week against England if that is what head coach Gregor Townsend asks of him.
The 22-year-old has played virtually all his rugby at stand-off but was pressed into action at the back when both Tommy Seymour and Blair Kinghorn picked up injuries in the first half hour of Saturday’s defeat to Wales, and he was both solid in defence and dangerous in attack as Scotland pushed the Grand Slam chasers hard during the second-half.
Head coach Townsend indicated afterwards that he would give serious consideration to handing Hastings the No 15 jersey next Saturday, depending on how a number of back three players who are currently on the injured list shape up in the early part of the week. “Adam was very good at 15, and he would come into consideration by us for that role after the way he played today,” he stated.
It would be a big ask for a relatively inexperienced player at the best of times, but particularly going down to Twickenham – where Scotland haven’t won since 1983 – to take on a resurgent England. However, Hastings is not the sort of character to flinch from a challenge.
“I would love it,” he insisted. “I love playing for Scotland and I wouldn’t shy away from it.The wingers can make me feel pretty comfortable in terms of my positioning.I’d really look forward to it, to be honest.”
Townsend will have a better idea on Monday about which back-three players will be available for the trip to London. Sean Maitland and Chris Harris were ruled out of the Wales match but as things stand have a chance of competing in the Calcutta Cup, while of those players who were injured against Wales, Darcy Graham and Byron McGuigan both look like having a fair chance of recovering from what Townsend called “whacks”.
Kinghorn limped off with an ankle injury and could be a close call, but Seymour looks less likely to make it after damaging his ribs – with the winger clearly in significant pain when he came back out of the tunnel to watch the second half of the match. “There was a lot of knocks today, it’s international rugby,” said Townsend. “We don’t know how long they will be out.”
Stuart Hogg, like Maitland and Harris, has yet to be ruled out, although it appears likely that Townsend will err on the side of caution if there is any doubt about the full-back. “He’s not back to full training, so he would have to make some progress over the weekend to come into consideration,” the coach explained.
A family affair
While Hastings doesn’t have much personal experience of playing full-back, he does have some family pedigree in that position – although junior was clearly reluctant to direct too much focus towards father Gavin, who was, of course, Scotland’s rock at the back 61 times between 1986 and 1995, as well as in six Lions Tests in 1989 and 1993. He shot down the suggestion that he might be able to pick up a few tips from watching some of the old boy’s grainy VHS videos.
“No, I don’t think so,” he retorted, with more than a hint of irritation. “Look, I’ve played there a few times, and it helps when you’ve got good wingers either side of you, telling you what to do. So, I felt pretty comfortable there.
“I was pretty prepared to come on that early,” he continued. “I’d had to go on pretty early against France, so I’m learning pretty quickly that, in international rugby, you have to be ready for these scenarios. I’m enjoying my time on the field and glad I got to play a part on Saturday.
“From half-time we dominated possession, and I think we all felt pretty hard done by at the end of that game. We just lacked a bit of accuracy – and our defence can get a bit better.
“We tend to concede points early on, which hurts us later in the game, even though we tend to finish games really strongly. Up until that last ten minutes [against Wales] we had them under pressure, and what we needed there was that final push, but we didn’t get it.
Pressing the reset button
It has been a tumultuous season for Hastings. He started the campaign in exhilarating form for Glasgow Warriors and was involved with Scotland throughout November, but then suffered a significant dip in form in late December and struggled to adapt his game in to suit the fact that he was struggling at that time to find his natural rhythm.
Hastings got five minutes off the bench against Italy in Scotland’s Six Nations curtain-raiser, then with Pete Horne coming back from injury he missed out on the Ireland game, and played just 16 minutes as a replacement for Warriors against Cardiff in the fallow week.
“I had a frustrating few weeks when I wasn’t getting much game time – boys were playing well ahead of me – but coming off the bench against France was me hitting the reset button,” he reflected. “I’m not taking anything for granted. I have to keep pushing.
“I think next week will be a great challenge. Where would be better to win than down there, against that team? We’re really up for it.
“I’ve not got any demons there. That’s a good thing. And that’s maybe what’s good about this young squad, that we’re a brave bunch and we’re not scared of these big teams. We’ll look to go down there and get a win.
“We’ve been there or thereabouts in every game we’ve played in this Six Nations, even though we’ve lost. So it would be a massive statement to go down there and win, especially in a World Cup year.”