Italy v Scotland: Gregor Townsend backs Adam Hastings to learn from difficult game

Stand-off showed considerable resliance to score a late try but struggled throughout the match to impose himself

Adam Hastings had a tough 80 minutes against Italy, but showed great resilience. Image: FOTOSPORT/DANIELE RESINI
Adam Hastings had a tough 80 minutes against Italy, but showed great resilience. Image: FOTOSPORT/DANIELE RESINI

ADAM HASTINGS had a tough day at the office against Italy on Saturday, but under-pressure Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has backed his playmaker to show the resilience required to bounce back from a match when his kicking radar, his ability to attack the line to get the team moving and his general decision-making let him down badly.

The match didn’t start well for the 23-year-old when he butchered an easy penalty opportunity from directly in front of the posts on nine minutes, and it didn’t pick up for the Glasgow Warriors man until the 79th minute when he opportunistically broke from the base of a ruck on halfway to snatch his team’s third try, which finally took the game away from a limited Italian side.

In fairness to Hastings, the breakdowns were a mess meaning there was a lack of quick ball to work with, but at this level you are looking for your stand-off to be able to adapt to the situation they have been presented with.


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Italy v Scotland: Scotland player ratings


“Today will be a good learning day for him because he will see he has to improve as both part of the team and individually,” said Townsend. “But he’s got through that experience, and the last game [against England played in the clutches of Storm Ciara] was a very good learning experience, too, in terms of the conditions and how he has to handle that as a 10.

“So, he’s learning all the time, and what pleased me today is that he was able to turn things around in the second half, and I thought he defended very well with a couple of really good hold-up tackles on some of their big men, and even a jackal turnover.

“He worked very hard, and like the other Scottish players he will be feeling good about winning, but also know there are improvements to come.”

Hastings is a young and relatively inexperienced player finding his way in the international game, and Townsend knows it would be crazy to throw the baby out with the bathwater at this stage – especially as he has very few palatable alternative options in that crucial chief playmaker role.

Finn Russell’s walk-out from the squad and subsequent public spat with the Townsend regime means it is highly unlikely that he will return to the Scotland fold any time soon, Duncan Weir has been training with the squad these last three weeks but there has been no indication that Townsend is minded to give the Worcester Warriors man his first cap since March 2017, and although Peter Horne has made it clear that he hasn’t given up on a Scotland return he is principally a centre who is now 30-years-old so not really a long-term proposition.

Rory Hutchinson has been covering Hastings from the bench these last three matches, but he is also principally a centre and hasn’t really played stand-off since his Scotland Under-20s days four years ago.

“Rory has really impressed us in training with how he has stepped in at 10. We gave him an opportunity to come on earlier this week at 13 and I thought he defended very well there. So, we’ll keep on progressing with those two if they are the stand-offs going into our next two games,” said Townsend, which was a rather half-hearted commendation of the options currently at his disposal.

Scottish Rugby Taxi Board Game

Unless something major changes soon, Townsend has no choice but to continue backing Hastings no matter what, which is not ideal for the coach who could surely do with having a few choices in this most pivotal of positions, and is also unfair on the player who is now stuck in the firing line no matter how much his form fluctuates (whilst constantly being compared to the incomparable Russell as Townsend perseveres with a game philosophy that does not sit well with the team’s recent DNA).

It is just as well that Hastings appears to be such a thick-skinned and self-assured character. He celebrated like he had won the World Cup after his try on Saturday, kicking the ball deep into the crowd despite the fact that the bonus-point was still on if the team could get back into action immediately. It perhaps wasn’t the smartest move in the world, but there was something re-assuring about his undiminished spirit.

For his part, Townsend insists that Scotland’s new commitment to pragmaticism does not mean disenfranchising the players.

“At the beginning of games, especially when you are away from home, you want to stay in the fight, and you don’t want to give the opposition easy chances to get into the game, so if that means more kicking then that is the option the nine and ten have to use,” he said. “Although sometimes, like against Ireland, it is about keeping the ball in hand because we were getting quick ball and able to move them around.

“I felt at half-time [against Italy] we weren’t as decisive in our actions – whether that was passing, kicking or running – as we could have been. But then we were really decisive for that 10-minute period [after half-time] and that opened up some spaces for our forward to carry hard with the ball, and then we ended up creating a few opportunities.

“As long as we’re decisive in our actions, and producing quick ball, which wasn’t always the case today, then it is up to the half-backs to play where they sense space and opportunities.”


Italy v Scotland: Scotland player ratings

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The Grudge by Tom English
David Barnes
About David Barnes 1776 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

15 Comments

  1. the usual suspects whinging about Scotland kicking a bit more pragmatically especially early on. I suspect the same ones who used to whinge about running everything and giving away early scores.

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  2. It wasn’t Hastings’ finest game, but he tackled hard, won a brilliant turnover, and had a hand in all three tries. He’s already a very good player and will continue to improve at this level.

    Not carrying a specialist 10 on the bench is a concern though. We’ve rode our luck so far, but one injury could leave us badly exposed.

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  3. Duncan Weir has been playing well and is highly regarded in the premiership. He should at least have had a 15 -20 minute cameo in 1-3 of these games to see if there is an improvement. Not Hutchinson who does not usually command that position for his club.I have no problems with Hastings being given a run to improve his confidence and see if he has what it takes at the top level But we seem to have moved away from our “running everything” mentality in favour of a more pragmatic approach and he has not exactly delivered. Wee Dunc will at least get us playing in the right areas of the field and will deliver a high return on place kicks.

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    • Townsend has treated Weir very badly. That is not just ill-mannered behaviour it is bad for the team. It simply is another example of Townsend’s psi;ures, team management, man management, situation management…

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  4. Will somebody please call time on this shambles of Townsend management, it’s embarrassing, all the 5 fat cats at the top of the SRU with there crubby fingers in the till paying themselves ridiculous salary’s for falure should be sacked as well, come on clubs, get together and clear out this mess asap

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  5. I like Adam Hastings but Townsend has essentially said that as long as he can tell his left foot from his right it lets me traet Finn like sh*t. this situation is all down to Townsend’s over inflated ego. Once agin his preplanned (last century) substitutions showed that he has not a clue.

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  6. After 3 games in this years 6 nations , some suggestions ….
    Hogg , move him to centre please , he’d cause havoc from that position !
    Hastings , i know he’d be compared to his old man , but he looks like a fullback !
    Finn boy, c’mon Finn, head down, apologies all round and come back and remind us what we’re missing !
    Once this squad are all fully fit and available for selection it could be a great couple of games coming up ….
    Mr Townsend, pick the right personnel for the job , the rest will take care of itself .

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    • In any sport ou can only win if you have discipline. We have this great ability in shooting ourselves in the foot. Discipline also applies to the fans. There antics and booing is an aebarrassment and need to be stamped out. They just let everyone down. Finn Russell needs to apologise and return to the team. There can only be one manager even if he doesn’t get everything right. Players should give their opinions by all means but also must be man enough to accept the decisions.

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    • Hogg is a world class full back and does plenty of damage from there, why move him to centre?? We also have plethora of centre options such as Johnson, Horne, Scott, Dunbar, Taylor, Jones, Harris, Bennett, Hutchison, Steyn, Grigg, Taylor….(that is 12!!!) so makes absolutely zero sense to try and move and re-caibrate a brilliant destructive full back into a centre. Hogg would no doubt have the game smarts to adapt positionally but still takes some transitioning for any player

  7. To me, it’s short-sighted to exclude Duncan Weir from consideration. I do appreciate the situation re Russell and he’s very unlikely to feature in this championship, but our backs are not getting into the game and Hastings was undeniably poor on Saturday. Having someone who kicks the points would have helped.

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    • Townsend “has very few palatable alternative options in that crucial chief playmaker role.”
      This is because he does not like some players and so they do not get picked. Nothing to do with their ability, just whether Townsend likes them personally.
      Townsend is “taking the Mickey” with Weir. If Townsend can treat Weir this way, the chap having left his club and stepped up without a murmur, why would Russell come back?
      All the Glasgow and Edinburgh players are gagged from saying anything, and those from other clubs won’t be wanting to stick their necks out.
      As long as Townsend is the manager, the team will be composed of conformists. This is hardly the recipe for scintillating surprises, and flashes of individual brilliance on the pitch is it?

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    • agree, would much rather have Weir in the 23. Its a huge ask for Hutchison to have to step up to international rugby never mind in a position he hasn’t played in years and never outside age group rugby. Could have been needed after a an early injury!

  8. Hastings had a bad day at the office for the most part…but I can’t be too harsh on the lad. He’s young, has been thrust into the spotlight, and now has to deliver. The squad, and in particular the leadership group, need to get him back on track and ensure that youthful belief stays with him for the France game.

    • Your comment leaves out that Townsend created this situation. Setting that aside though, if you get picked you are supposed to play. If a player does not feel up to it, they can always decline.
      “Leadership group”!!! what exactly is that? Shoulders to cry on? Or Townsend’s enforcers? Utter nonsense whichever. There can be no unofficial bosses off the field. I have never gone along with such stuff unless I chose to.
      Whatever, that is in itself a source of division and friction, instigated by Townsend. “Commando” comics are not management manuals.

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    • all you demonstrated with that post was your own total ignorance of how professional rugby is run. Every team has a leadership group of senior players. Every single one.

      No doubt you can now tell us which professional team you coach.

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