GLASGOW WARRIORS attack coach Jason O’Halloran believes that Adam Hastings is now ready to kick-on to achieve his full potential after returning from Scotland’s World Cup campaign in Japan as a more-rounded player who is better equipped to make the right decisions through the full 80 minutes of a game.
Hastings has been a commanding presence for the Scotstoun outfit as they have recovered from a shaky start to the season to claim a 50-0 win at home over the Southern Kings two weekends ago followed by a comprehensive 7-31 demolition of Zebre away last Saturday.
With Dave Rennie’s team launching their European Champions Cup campaign at home to Sale Sharks at Scotstoun this coming Saturday afternoon, they appear to have hit form at just the right time.
“I know that with Gregor Townsend at Scotland lately they have had a real focus around their kicking game and trying to develop that a lot more. They feel like kicking is an important part of the repertoire when you are a team that is known for moving the ball a lot, and I think Adam’s tactical control through his kicking game has been a lot improved since he’s come back,” said O’Halloran.
“There have been one or two that went astray, but I think the thought process around where to kick has been excellent.
“Even against the Kings the week before, he had a couple of early kicks which pinned them back which was pivotal to us getting on the front foot, so he’s known as a running 10 but his tactical ability with the boot has really improved for us and that’s crucial because we can’t be a team which just pings the ball around east to west all day long. If we do that, we are going to get knocked over and that’s going to put pressure on ourselves, so we’ve got to manage that middle third effectively, which he’s done really well.”
Hastings has been partnered at half-back by George Horne, who has also played a crucial role in the team’s recent resurgence.
“Adam and George have been pivotal – really enthusiastic and accurate – and brought a lot of tempo to our game which was perhaps lacking earlier in the season,” acknowledged O’Halloran, before praising the contribution of a few other returning World Cuppers.
“I also thought Ryan Wilson was really good at the weekend, Zander Fagerson has been fantastic since coming back from Japan, as has Fraser Brown, so almost to a man those guys have brought a real edge that has helped us to speed the game up, which is important to the way we want to play.
“I think Zander had 16 carries at the weekend which is massive, Fraser had 16 or 17 carries as well, and Matt Fagerson was the other one – between those three guys they had almost 60 carries, so that was crucial to our ability to maintain ball and create a lot of pressure through multiple phases.
“It is massive to the way we want to play the game. We feel like we’re fit but you can’t impose your fitness on teams if you can’t look after the ball for long enough – so that’s been a big change in the last fortnight.”
Respecting the opposition
Apart from Jonny Gray, who is being given an extended break, Warriors will be close to full strength for Staurday’s game. Sale, meanwhile, are going to rest their World Cup stars – including South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk who was one of the players of the tournament – but O’Halloran says it would be a mistake to read too much into this.
“We respect Sale regardless what team turns up,” insisted the New Zealander. “We look back to Lyon last year and they had pretty much all second stringers out there, and other than the first 20 minutes when we scored two tries it was a ding-dong affair.
“As we’ve found in the past, if you give fringe guys a chance then they turn up and play just as well as the established guys. We’ll be really mindful that they’ll be a really good side regardless of who they pick. We know that you don’t have to be too far off mentally to get a hiding. We had that a couple of years ago, we got stitched up when we weren’t quite there mentally.
“Every game is a must win game for us if we want to get to where we want to get to,” he added. “Everyone knows that in Europe you’ve got to win your home games and get at least one win away from home, so this is a must-win. We’ve been comfortable and got a little momentum going, but this is going to be a completely different thing.
“It’s a typical boxer’s punching scenario when we come up against English sides. They think they can bully us, and we think we can outmanoeuvre them with our pace. Both teams will want to establish their game and get on the front foot and dominate, it’s up to us to ensure that it is us who do that. But regardless of how you want to play the game, the foundation is winning the set-piece and the breakdown area. If we can dominate them there, then we can dominate the game.”
Cards close to his chest
O’Halloran was tight-lipped when asked if the Warriors head coach role, which is expected to be up for grabs when Dave Rennie moves on at the end of the current season, is something he would like to take on.
“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,” he said. “I’m here to June 2020, but I haven’t thought beyond that. I’ve a young family back in New Zealand, so that’ll be part of any decision. I just want to get these big games out the way, this part of the season is really pivotal for us all the way to the 1872 stuff. I’ll make the decision after that probably.”