Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
I ALWAYS SAY, if Scotland can be in the game towards the end then they will believe in themselves.
Source: Billy Stickland
Former Scotland international Gavin Hastings wants to feel positive about his country’s upcoming Six Nations tie.
And yet, he also fears the threat that Ireland pose in their Aviva Stadium fortress. In fact, he worries about the possibility of the match becoming a ‘humiliation’ for the side he scored 667 points for throughout his playing career.
Scotland have an unenviable away record in this competition, with their last victorious trip to Dublin stretching back to 2010.
After starting the 2018 campaign with a heavy defeat to Wales, Gregor Townsend’s side have been rejuvenated by a win over France, and a shock result against England to claim the Calcutta Cup for the first time in a decade.
“Well, I think the pubs have closed since then,” says Hastings of the post-match celebrations.
“To do it in the manner that we did it was a cause for celebration. The players rightly went out and celebrated, but they are professional athletes and they know they’ve got themselves back in the running for the championship.”
Hastings, a former British and Irish Lions captain, believes that Scotland should feel confident coming into this clash against Ireland.
Along with having the benefit of completing three competitive games already, he suggests that the two week break following the England game could form a crucial part of their preparations.
He commends Townsend and his charges for how they have revived their Six Nations championship, and even feels that this Scotland side have certain advantages over Joe Schmidt’s squad.
“Ireland, given the injuries they’ve had,” he explains, “they are very much a team who relies on the team playing well. I don’t think Ireland have the equivalent of a Huw Jones, Stuart Hogg or a Finn Russell.”
Source: Lynne Cameron - Getty Images
Utilising the power of Hogg, Russell and Jones will be a key component of Scotland’s game according to Hastings, and if they can remain competitive until the closing stages of the tie, he believes they will be in a strong position to pounce for victory.
Russell’s performance against England in Murrayfield produced a stunning moment of brilliance, when he unleashed an audacious pass out wide to Jones, which subsequently led to a Sean Maitland try.
The move left Hastings with his ‘heart in my mouth,’ but he admires Russell for his expressive style of play.
“He’s a maverick. He doesn’t give a toss about what people are saying about him. I mean he was magnificent against England, absolutely magnificent.
“I still maintain he’s one of the best passers of a rugby ball, Sexton’s pretty good but I think Finn Russell is maybe even better than him.”
But although he is encouraged by Scotland’s recovery, Hastings fears the collective strength of this Grand-Slam-seeking Irish side, which he believes boasts a world class talent in Conor Murray.
He points to the manner in which they collected marginal wins against France and Wales in the previous rounds to illustrate his point.
“They won that game and the Wales game in the final seconds. Okay, they were ahead in that game, but another few minutes and Wales might have won it. They’ve had a couple of these close games, but winning them is the sign of a good team.
“I’m afraid of humiliation. There would be no disgrace in losing to Ireland but I don’t want to be humiliated. I think Scotland were humiliated in Cardiff and we’ve responded very well to that.
“We are going to win again in Dublin, and let it be on Saturday. We’ll go in feeling confident, and we have nothing to lose. Everyone here will expect Ireland to win, but from the Scottish perspective, the only people whose belief matters is the Scottish squad.
But I come back, it would be no disgrace in losing to Ireland. What scares me is being humiliated.”
Following the Calcutta Cup game, England head coach Eddie Jones said that some pre-match comments from Hastings may have incited ‘certain behaviours’ which led to him being allegedly subjected to verbal and physical abuse during a train journey.
Source: David Rogers - Getty Images
Hastings indicated Scotland would love nothing more than ‘to rub Eddie Jones’ face in the dirt’ during an interview with City:AM.
He declined to comment on Jones’ view of the incident, but profoundly condemned the actions that are alleged to have taken place.
“The one thing that I will say is that I was absolutely disgusted and appalled by what happened to Eddie Jones and there is no place for that in life, let alone in sport.
“So, those people I hope, will be rightly punished. That was inexcusable, what happened and I think Eddie Jones handled the whole thing very well.”
Gavin Hastings (OBE), former Scottish rugby captain and British & Irish Lion, who has teamed up with Guinness to celebrate the communion and camaraderie between rugby fans. Ahead of Ireland’s highly anticipated game against Scotland on Saturday, 10th March, Guinness has partnered with well-known Dublin pub Paddy Cullen’s who will change its name to a rugby favourite and the Scottish Rugby anthem, ‘Flower of Scotland’ on match day as a nod to the visiting supporters, creating a new ‘home from home’ destination for a pre-match pint for all fans, whatever their jersey!
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