It was a bold statement although Rennie clearly has issues with the Scotland ten. At one point in the discussion the interviewer declares Russell among the top ten stand-offs in world rugby. “In your opinion”, the gruff Kiwi shoots back.
That Rennie didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his playmaker was obvious from Russell’s very average performances as his final season with the Warriors coincided with Rennie’s first. We can only guess what the put down does to Russell’s psyche but at least Rennie’s outburst offered a timely fillip to one player.
“A confidence boost I think,” was how Hastings described it, when asked if his coach’s comments had added to the pressure ahead of Saturday’s final 1872 Cup derby match against Edinburgh.
“The best thing about Rens is that he backs all of us. You can see that from the way he throws boys in when he thinks they are ready. It was nice to hear but not on my mind too much.”
Hastings had just completed a composed display to help Glasgow to a decisive 34-10 win that ended Edinburgh’s hopes of Champions Cup rugby and ended their season. He made smart decisions throughout, particularly using the first-half wind to good effect. Hastings made a second-half scoring pass to Niko Matawalu and almost did the same with a kick-pass in the first 40.
The stand-off also finished 100 per cent in front of goal, kicking all four conversions and adding two penalties for good measure. After the game Hastings admitted that he felt he owed his side a big game.
“The first two [derby] games, maybe they wanted it more,” he admitted. “You saw a [Glasgow] team hungry for it [on Saturday]. You saw it in our defence, getting off the line, our big boys smashing ... even Niko Matawalu going for that try there he went full Humvee and that is what you want from your players.
“Personally, it was nice to get the monkey off my back. I thought I lost that first [derby] game for us and played poorly over the Christmas period. It was really important for me to get that win and me to go half decent.”
Hastings endured a mid-season loss in form, as did his club. The stand-off gifted two tries to Edinburgh in the opening 1872 match at BT Murrayfield, firing two interception passes to Duhan van der Merwe, and his woes continued into January as he put in an error-strewn performance when Glasgow lost to Benetton on the road.
Late in the game, a long scoring pass from Hastings to Matawalu on the left wing went several yards forward and the stand-off was replaced shortly after. He was forcing things, trying too hard, but looked infinitely more comfortable and confident against Edinburgh.
Hastings, like his Glasgow team, have come good when it matters most, stringing together impressive wins against Ulster, Leinster and Edinburgh, averaging 34 points. Pressed on whether Hastings will one day overtake Russell, pictured, Rennie doubled down on his previous statement.
“I reckon he will,” replied the coach. “Finn is world class on his best day, absolute world class. What I was talking about was the consistency of his performances. Adam is a bit like that too.
“The thing I love about Adam is that he is so competitive, his workrate is huge and his ability to connect behind the forwards quickly is better than Finn’s and that means we have real, genuine threats around there.
“Finn is a fantastic distributor, a fantastic tackler, all I am saying is that Adam has the potential to be better than Finn.”
Rennie clearly has players he favours and those he doesn’t; Nick Grigg is among the former, Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones the latter. It begs the question of how much responsibility the coach has when a good player is underperforming. The interesting thing is that Hastings has moved from being a marginal influence to a key one in short order. The youngster had only six league starts last season but double that number this time out, with more to come.
Who has more potential, the reigning king or the young pretender, is food for Twitter. The important fact is that, going into the World Cup, Gregor Townsend has two genuine options at ten, whereas before he had one.