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Gavin & Scott Hastings tight-lipped on Scotland’s Grand Slam chances

GIVEN that they were speaking to the press to promote a ‘Grand Slam Dinner’ being held later this year to celebrate Scotland’s successes of 1984 and 1990, it was curious to hear Gavin and Scott Hastings put a ban on use of the words ‘Grand’ and ‘Slam’.  

The mood of the brothers – who were key men in the 1990 success, and who picked up 135 Scotland and Lions caps between them during the years spanning 1986 to 1997 – darkened when they were asked about the current national team’s prospects of achieving a clean-sweep during this Six Nations. 

“Next question,” harrumphed older sibling Gavin, when asked whether he thinks Gregor Townsend’s side have got what it takes. 

“Let’s win [against Wales] on Saturday, ok?” he retorted, when pushed on the team’s Championship prospects. “Please don’t get carried away with all of this. It’s about Saturday. We’ve started off well, don’t even mention those two words! Honestly, let’s keep our feet on the ground.  

“We’ve beaten England before – we beat them last year and we didn’t win anything else. 

“I would like to think Scotland have got a very good chance of winning on Saturday and then we’ll worry about anyone else after that.” 

Scott was equally exasperated. “I look back to the squads of 1984 and 1990 when nobody was thinking ahead, it was literally about the next game,” said the former centre. “They just concentrated on what was in front of them next. Nobody got carried away, especially the media.” 

Perhaps there is more hype now than these two legends experienced in their pomp, but the game has moved on from those amateur days of dignified understatement, and they acknowledge that it would be much worse if there was no optimistic chatter surrounding the Scotland team this week because that would mean that they had come up short against England last Saturday. 

As it is, the Scots are flying high after achieving back-to-back successes against the Auld Enemy for the first time in 38 years (two years before the Hastings boys appeared on the scene) and are looking ahead to a trip to Cardiff to take on a Wales team reeling from their 29-7 drubbing at the hands of Ireland at the weekend. 

So, this refusal to jump on the hype train should not be mistaken for a lack of admiration for what Scotland have achieved so far – or a lack of belief in what is possible if the players and coaching team keep their focus. 

“You look at that performance by Scotland on Saturday and there was a full understanding of everything that happened in that game: from Finn Russell’s kicking to the defensive platform, to the way they coped with England’s power up-front,” agreed Scott. 

“In the past, some of their games have been littered with simple mistakes, but there was a unity in that performance. When Scotland go down to Cardiff, they must continue to turn the screw. 

“The Principality Stadium Stadium will be a tough nut to crack, so they just have to knuckle down and concentrate on their own game,” he added. “There have been times in the past few years when they have gone there, played that high-tempo style, and then fallen out the game. 

“You have to still be in the game in the last 20 minutes. On Saturday they stayed in the game, stayed confident in the way they carried the ball into contact, and it will have to be the same in Wales. It is going to have to be like Groundhog Day – repeat, repeat, repeat.”

Meanwhile, if Gavin is frustrated that his son, stand-off Adam, was not involved in last weekend’s game and is not going to be involved in this coming weekend’s match having been left out of Townsend’s training squad for this campaign, then he was not letting on. 

“I thought Finn Russell [the incumbent stand-off] had a magnificent game against England and his goalkicking was key to that, as was his kicking from hand,” he said. “His thread-through in the second half when England had lost Luke Cowan-Dickie was a massive moment. His game management was terrific.” 

The Grand Slam Dinner is being held at Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Saturday 31st May, with tickets now on sale. The event – which is being held to help raise awareness and funds for Hearts + Balls, a charity which supports former players who have suffered serious injuries – was supposed to take place back in 2020 to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1990 Grand Slam but was postponed due to Covid. 

“Rugby has sorely missed these big group celebrations – and charities have been hit hard by not being able to utilise vital fundraising streams,” said Scott.  “Of course, the evening will be incredibly enjoyable, but to be able to know that we’re making a real difference to members of the rugby community who need our support makes it all the more special. 

“Hearts + Balls is an incredible charity that every single one of us is proud to be able to support.”

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