Adam Hastings fired up by prospect of battle with Johnny Sexton
Adam Hastings is relishing the prospect of going head-to-head with Irish great Johnny Sexton in Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 final between Glasgow Warriors and Leinster at Celtic Park.
The 22-year-old Warriors stand-off is not daunted, though, by the prospect of testing his wits against the 33-year-old, who has 83 Ireland caps and six Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions.
“He’s a quality player. He’s played in some massive games and his track record and his CV are pretty good,” said Hastings. “But it will be no different to playing someone like Owen Farrell, I’m sure. I don’t think it will make too much difference to my game.”
Hastings is clearly expecting Sexton to be back in the Leinster No 10 jersey on Saturday evening after the Irish province’s coaching staff came out to emphatically deny their captain had been dropped for last weekend’s Pro14 semi-final win over Munster.
Through a combination of injury, international commitments and “player management” the experienced Sexton was bench back-up to Ross Byrne in Dublin for the 24-9 win over their old foes which booked their place at Celtic Park a day after Glasgow had hammered Ulster at Scotstoun in their home semi-final.
Leinster backs coach Felipe Conteponi said: “This has to be clear, Johnny was not dropped. Coming back from a very bruised 80 minutes in the Champions Cup [final defeat by Saracens in Newcastle] and before he was injured.
“We thought and everyone agreed that maybe the best thing for him was to come off the bench and be fresh or as fresh as possible.”
Hastings still found much to take from the match in Dublin even if Sexton only made a late cameo.
“It was extremely physical as most derbies are. It was an-all Irish affair and they were getting stuck into each other,” said the man who now has 11 Scotland caps and has recovered from a mid-season slump to be leading a potent Warriors attack with spark and aplomb.
“It looked like a tough game to play in. Leinster showed their quality at the end and put their foot on Munster’s throat to close it out.”
Thanks to Hastings’ excellent form over the past few months, he stormed to the Pro14 young player of the year award and it was at the recent ceremony in Dublin that his call of tails gave Glasgow or Ulster the home-team route to the final, meaning Dave Rennie’s men will have the Celtic changing room at Parkhead this weekend.
The great Hastings dynasty for which Adam is impressively carrying on the torch may be steeped in rugby history but there has always been a keen interest in the soccer code, with his famous father Gavin and uncle Scott on opposing sides of the Edinburgh footballing divide.
There was a comical moment at Scotstoun when the younger Hastings revealed that he had once played at Tynecastle, in a Scottish Schools Cup game for George Watson’s College against Stewart’s-Melville which ended in a 3-0 loss, which prompted members of the press to comment that didn’t sound like the most thrilling of rugby games.
“It was football!” corrected Hastings with a beaming grin. “It was crap. I was right wing at the time, but I’ve played all over the shop. I think I got back to centre-back when they realised I was slow.”
Slow would not be the first word you would think of when assessing Hastings’ emergence as a zippy playmaker who has stepped into the hard-to-fill playmaker boots of Finn Russell with optimistic elan.
He has attended Celtic Park to watch football games a few times but is looking forward to getting on the pitch during Friday’s Captain’s Run to get a proper eve-of-final feel for the surroundings, particularly in regards to his kicking game.
“Murrayfield is pretty windy so it depends on the dynamic or physics or whatever,” he said.
“I’ve been a few times. I’ve got a good mate from school who is a really massive Celtic fan, so I’ve been to watch a few games.
“I think football fans are a lot louder than rugby fans, so that atmosphere is incredible there. They’ve got some of the best fans in the world, so it has been a good experience when I’ve gone.”
“I’m not really sure of the dimensions of the pitch. I’m not sure if it’s wider or shorter or whatnot. I’ve played at a few different grounds – Scotstoun is pretty windy too – so hopefully the stands give a bit of cover.”