Glasgow coach Dave Rennie has backed the big-game temperament of Adam Hastings after recalling the young stand-off for today’s Heineken Champions Cup Pool 3 decider against Saracens in London.
The 22-year-old was dropped to the bench for last Sunday’s home win over Cardiff Blues but is restored to the XV for this afternoon’s match at Allianz Park, with Brandon Thomson, who started six days ago, dropping out of the squad.
It was also revealed that co-captain Callum Gibbins is expected to be out for around eight weeks after having an operation on the ankle he injured against the Welsh side, while fellow back-rower Matt Fagerson faces “an extended lay-off” with a shoulder injury he picked up in the same game.
Hastings is one of four changes, with tighthead prop Siua Halanukonuka back in the front-row, Tim Swinson into the second-row with Rob Harley switching to the blind-side flank and Chris Fusaro starting at 7, as captain Ryan Wilson moves to the back of the scrum.
“We wanted to put out our best available team. Adam’s been our best 10 throughout the season,” said Rennie yesterday after naming his team. “He’s been working really hard on the areas we need to make some shifts in. We think he’s ready to go. He’s certainly trained well.”
Hastings has suffered a dip in form after appearing for Scotland in the autumn Tests and paid the price for a poor display in the loss to Benetton in Italy two weeks ago.
Rennie has backed the youngster to respond today, however, against the two-time European champions in their own backyard.
“It’s a big game, our mindset is that we’ve got to put a team out that we think is best suited to win this and Adam’s been a big part of what we’ve done well this year,” added the Kiwi coach.
With Gibbins out for a couple of months now, a crucial Six Nations period in which the New Zealander’s leadership would have been vital, extra responsibility falls on Wilson ahead of today’s showdown.
The Scotland back-rower has been left out by Rennie a couple of times recently but the coach said he is pleased with how the co-captain has responded.
“He was left out mainly for a lack of impact defensively,” explained Rennie. “A lot of that was about his body height, and to his credit he has worked really hard and done a lot of work on dominance around tackle and chop. I think he has been excellent for the past two or three weeks.
“It’s just a reminder to the guys that it doesn’t matter whether you’re the skipper or not, there is competition for places. To his credit, he’s made good shifts and that will be really important for us tomorrow.”
Saracens are already through from Pool 3 but victory this afternoon would secure a home tie.
Captain Brad Barritt returns to action for Saracens after being sidelined by a head injury, and wing Alex Lewington takes over from Scotland wing Sean Maitland, who went off against Lyon last weekend because of a tight hamstring.
“It will be a pretty brutal affair like it was last time I imagine,” said Rennie, referring to the 13-3 loss at Scotstoun in the pool opener back in October.
“We have to make sure we really steel up for it. We expect it to be pretty hostile in the first 20 minutes.
“They are going to kick a lot of ball to us and try to apply pressure that way. We need to do a really good job around defusing that and maybe that will create opportunities for us to counter or find some territory.”