As one of the great buccaneering full-backs in the game’s history, Gavin Hastings is hoping the inheritor of his No 15 jersey, Stuart Hogg, can get back to his best and drive Scotland to the Six Nations improvement the country so badly craves.
Hogg suffered a form dip immediately after the World Cup but has been steadily getting back to his electric best and Hastings hopes he carries that into the Six Nations, which opens with the visit of Eddie Jones’ new-look England a week tomorrow.
The former Scotland and Lions captain said: “I thought Hoggy played pretty well in the World Cup. He’s a player who can get the crowd on their feet – an exciting player who can make things happen. So we want to see the best from him.
“He’s suffered a bit of inconsistency since the year he went on the Lions tour. It would be great to see him get back to that 2013 form.
“He has shown glimpses of it and I think he’s been around long enough now for supporters to expect to see a bit more of the promise.”
Hastings famously enjoyed a winning start to his Scotland career alongside his brother Scott in the opening Five Nations Championship game of 30 years ago against France and knows only too well how that first game can set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
A scan through Scotland’s records of the past couple of decades can reveal any number of gruesome statistics but, arguably, one of the grisliest is the fact that they have only once, since Five became Six in 2000, won their opening match of the tournament – a 20-16 home triumph over France in 2006.
The recent record against England is equally grim so Hastings is, despite taking as much pleasure as anyone in last year’s World Cup showing, in no mood to start sabre rattling ahead of the auld enemy’s trip north a week tomorrow.
Gavin kicked 21 points and Scott grabbed a try in their first taste of Calcutta Cup action, a record 33-6 rout, and went on to be a key man on that unforgettable day in 1990 but since then Scotland have only beaten England three times.
“Please understand, I’m not rubbishing in any way or doing down Scotland’s chances but we need to be cautious in terms of our expectations,” Hastings said. “I remember the last couple of times that England have come up to Murrayfield and there has been a huge amount of optimism and Scotland have performed pretty badly.
“We have to expect it’s going to be a fierce battle from England who have a chance to right the wrongs of the Rugby World Cup. I actually don’t think England were as bad a team as people might have made out. If they had kicked for goal in the last few minutes against Wales and been successful they would have gone through to the quarters. It’s fine margins in international sport. We as Scots know all about that.”
Hastings says winning the opening game can be absolutely crucial in sparking some momentum into the campaign. “Particularly when you only have two home games,” he said. “That [opening game] record is woeful, it’s dreadful. When you add in the fact there is going to be a brand new England team, motivated by having a new coach, well Scotland are going to have to play extremely well to achieve victory.”
l Gavin Hastings is a pundit for BBC Radio 5 live’s coverage of the 2016 RBS Six Nations. The Six Nations will be live across BBC and ITV. The BBC will have extensive coverage across TV, Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra and on the BBC Sport website.