FORMER Scotland full-back Gavin Hastings has backed Stuart Hogg to excel in the No 15 jersey for Scotland and believes that the team will begin to lift fortunes with victory over Italy on Saturday.
Hogg’s performance was one of the few rays of light in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup defeat, and Hastings believes that talk of shifting him to a more central role, at stand-off or centre – positions Hogg played in for Hawick – was at best premature.
“I thought he was magnificent,” said Hastings of Saturday’s display. “He seemed to have the spark back that was maybe missing at the end of last year and I was delighted for him because he played very well. He just seems to attack from any opportunities.
“I don’t really have a view [on his best position], but if he’s playing well at full-back then keep him at full-back. He’s very new on the international scene and he did well last weekend, and let’s just give him a chance to bed in there.”
Hastings joined the current skipper at yesterday’s unveiling of a new Scottish rugby record Highland Cathedral with Kelly Brown and Voices of Scottish rugby, as one of many ex-internationalists who appear in the video, and, recalling how he recorded O Flower of Scotland with the 1990 squad when that became the official pre-match anthem, said he was delighted to help the cause again.
“O Flower of Scotland was great for us, and having Kelly and the rest of the Scottish team endorsing this song [Highland Cathedral] is great now. It’s the sort of thing that people will see on the screens and will catch on in the next two or three seasons I’m absolutely sure.”
As for whether it could help inspire confidence in the current team at the start of Saturday’s game, in the way it seemed to with his side in 1990, Hastings said: “I only managed two victories against England in my whole career [none at Twickenham], but that was one and it definitely helped.
“I think that they have to go in with a lot of confidence on Saturday. It will be an extremely difficult game, but I believe this Scotland team are capable of winning the match.
“They have to approach the game, which I’m sure they will do, with the right attitude and focus. But now they have a game under their belts and they have a significant time advantage over Italy coming into this game with no travelling, and an extra day’s rest, so they’ve got that in their favour and if they can make that count and that’s the difference between winning and losing then so be it.
“It’s always going to be tough for Scotland. Every single game we play is going to be a battle. Scotland do not play any international rugby matches that are easy, so it’s a battle every single time we take the field, and that won’t change. It was never easy in my day and it’s not easy now.”
Asked how much confidence might be affected by a run of defeats, he said: “I don’t think they lack confidence, and you saw that in their tries.
“We need to keep on scoring tries because, for me, that’s the most important thing and that’s what I take out of the weekend, the fact that they scored very good tries. It wasn’t that long ago that we were not scoring any tries, but we scored three against the All Blacks and two at Twickenham is a good sign, and I think they will take an awful lot of confidence from those two magnificent tries.
“They weren’t really in with a shout of winning the game, but, as I’ve said, that’s no disgrace, and as I stand here I take Scotland to beat Italy on Saturday. I don’t care if it’s a last-minute penalty or whatever, I want Scotland to win and I think they will win on Saturday.”