ADAM HASTINGS insists that his focus is on helping Glasgow Warriors keep their slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s Champions Cup alive when they take on the daunting task of tackling Leinster in their own back yard next Sunday – but it doesn’t take too much prodding before there is an admission that he would rather be in Paris than Dublin next weekend as part of the Scotland squad seeking a first win at the Stade de France since 10th April 1999.
The stand-off made his first competitive appearance on Friday night since dislocating his shoulder playing for Scotland in their Covid postponed final Six Nations match against Wales at the end of October. During his 64 minutes for Warriors against Ulster, he was perhaps slightly tentative with ball in hand, standing a bit deeper than usual, but didn’t shirk any of the physical demands, and was bang-on with two long-range penalties.
It wasn’t enough to see his team to a win which would have significantly boosted their increasingly forlorn looking quest for a top three finish in Guinness PRO14’s Conference B this season, but as head coach Danny Wilson highlighted afterwards, it was a dramatic improvement on the last meeting between the two sides in early November when Warriors were lucky to escape with only 40 points conceded (and 15 scored).
“It was a funny old game, I think,” said Hastings afterwards. “We were pleased in patches with the first 40, but I think that try at the end of the half took away a bit of our momentum.
“We had a tough 20 minutes straight after half-time when we kind of piggy-backed them up the park with a few penalties and didn’t really get hold of the ball. I was a bit frustrated not to get my hands on the ball more at the start of the second half.”
Finn Russell is certain to retain the Scotland No10 jersey next Sunday having played the full 80 minutes in the first two rounds of this year’s Six Nations while Jaco van der Walt has been an unused reserve. The Racing 92 has not had to return to club action in France this weekend, so should be refreshed and ready to go again, while national team head coach Gregor Townsend may well take the view that rushing Hastings on to the bench will provide him with more options in midfield later in the match following the loss of Cameron Redpath to a neck injury after that famous England win in round one.
“I’ve not really thought about it, to be honest,” said Hastings. “I was very focused on this week in training, on doing my best for the team. I’m kind of looking at the Leinster game at the moment and being involved in that, but if I’m pulled into camp then, yeah, I’ll go from there.”
“I’ve been in [the Scotland] camp two out of the past three weeks with the boys, just kind of helping them prepare for games. That was really good. Gregor brought me in and changed up my rehab a little bit. I think I’d had 12 weeks on the bounce at Glasgow doing rehab, so it was refreshing and nice to be back in with the squad.
“After they beat England in that first game, I wanted to get back as quickly as possible, and if there was any chance I could play a part in the Six Nations, I was going to make sure that I got myself fit. I’ve done that, and I think it’s now about putting in performances for club first and foremost.
“If I get picked, I get picked. If I don’t, I don’t, and I’ll be fully focused on the next game.”
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An hour of rugby to get up to speed might not seem like a lot after so long out, but Hastings added that he was pretty satisfied with how Friday’s game had gone on a personal level.
“The nerves were maybe a bit more than they have been in the past after such a long time out,” he recalled. “Then it was about testing the shoulder, because you know you’ve done all your contact and all these tests, but I feel personally you don’t 100 per cent know until you’ve hit a few people in awkward positions, just to make sure that the shoulder is sound.
“I felt sharp with my handling and my kicking, it was just about getting that game feel back, getting into the swing of things. There were purple patches in that first half, but as I mentioned earlier, I was frustrated not to get my hands on the ball in the second half a little bit more.”
A cynic might say that Hastings left no stone unturned in his quest to catch Townsend’s eye. While fellow stand-off Duncan Weir went for bushy bouffant, he has decided to assert his individuality by dying his hair blond.
“I don’t really know why, to be honest,” he laughs. “Boredom, probably – there’s not a lot of ways to let off steam, especially during Covid, so I got one of the boys to do it.
“It’s not too bad, I don’t think. I think it’s better than Hoggy’s when he did it. It’s better than a few of them.
“It’s probably not the wisest thing to draw attention to myself after three months out, with the lid, but no, I think it’s all right. I’ll have to shave it off when I go to Gloucester [next season] anyway, I’ve been told.”