A COMBINATION of Glasgow Warriors starting this PRO14 campaign like a runaway train with seven wins from seven outings so far, and the introduction of a conference system which has diluted the intensity of the regular season by making it easier to qualify for the play-offs, means that Dave Rennie’s men can afford a couple of slip-ups while their frontline players are away during this month’s international window.
They are, after all, 21 points ahead of Connacht, who are currently in fourth place in conference A, with 12 matches remaining before the play-offs take place. In truth, the only real pressure on the Warriors is in avoiding a complete collapse which would result in a trickier than necessary draw when the business end of the season arrives.
Dave Rennie has already explained that his focus now is on development rather than the grind of churning out result after result as would be the case if he was coaching a team in the Aviva Premiership.
“We need to be the best team in this competition in May. There’s a lot of growth in the group. You’ve got to take things on the chin and learn from them. That’s why I think the last couple of weeks have been good for us,” he said last week.
Not that the players involved in the next two or three games will take that view. With 18 frontline performers away on Scotland duty, this is a golden opportunity for fringe pros to state their case for more regular involvement in the Warriors team, and stand-off Adam Hastings is determined to carry on from where he left off against the Southern Kings last Friday by delivering another lively performance against Leinster tomorrow night.
“Everyone wants to play. Nobody wants to sit on the bench forever or not be involved. As you saw on Friday, there is a group of young guys itching to be regulars in the team and you will see more of the same in the next few weeks,” he vowed.
After a disjointed start to his Warriors career after switching to Scotstoun from Bath during the summer, which involved a five week lay-off with a lacerated thigh, Hastings belatedly made his first competitive start for the club on Friday – and although it was not a completely polished performance, the 21-year-old showed that he has the vision and the courage to spark the game into life with a flash of magic produced out of thin air.
A key moment in the match was immediately after Niko Matawalu’s 31st minute score had put the home team into a 12-6 lead. Straight from the restart, Hastings launched a piercing break-out from his own 22, which was supported by George Horne (who was also making his first competitive start at scrum-half) and ultimately led to Nick Grigg scoring the team’s third try.
A few minutes later, Horne took a quick tap penalty from under the shadow of his own posts to break 50-metres up-field, and would surely have sent Matawalu in for his second try in as many minutes had his pass gone to hand.
All of a sudden, the tone of the game had been set by two of the most inexperienced players on the park, and the home side never really looked back.
“It was good fun. It was nice to get my home debut. It had been a long time coming so I was itching to play,” said Hastings, before vowing not to rein in his free spirit when the might of Leinster rock up in Glasgow tomorrow night.
“They are a big physical team and they like to bully you. They were successful in parts doing that against us last time we played [in the Champions cup a fortnight ago] so we are expecting more of the same. We want to right some wrongs this weekend,” said Hastings.
“We are not looking to play from our 22 all of the time but if it is on we will do it. We are not scared to do it and have been given the go-ahead to do it.”
“Dave [Rennie] encourages it. If it is on anywhere on the pitch he tells you to have a crack.”
His partner in crime, Horne, has a similar attitude, and that pairing have the makings of an exciting half-back axis in a similar vein to Finn Russell and Ali Price.
“We have not had too much professional experience so it is nice being alongside someone in the same boat. As half-backs we can rely on each other, we can talk and we get on pretty well. It is good that we are clicking straight away,” concluded Hastings.