Don’t mention the Grand Slam! Gavin Hastings calls for calm after England win
Thrilled though he was with the Calcutta Cup win over England, Gavin Hastings has urged the Scottish rugby public and media not to get carried away.
Scotland are in buoyant form but Hastings is not looking beyond the game at the Principality Stadium. He believes the visitors are favourites to win in Wales but won’t entertain talk of a Grand Slam at this early stage.
“Don’t even mention those two words!” he says.
“Let’s win on Saturday, OK? Please don’t get carried away with all of this. It’s about Saturday. We’ve started off well. Honestly, let’s keep our feet on the ground. We’ve beaten England – we beat them last year and we didn’t win anything else last year.”
Hastings, of course, was a key member of the last Scotland side to clinch the Grand Slam, winning the title in 1990 in a never-to-be-forgotten winner-takes-all clash against England at Murrayfield.
The former full-back was back at the stadium yesterday with brother and fellow grand-slammer Scott to re-launch the Grand Slam Celebration Dinner for the squads of 1984 and 1990.
The event has been delayed for almost two years due to the pandemic but will now take place on Saturday, May 22 at the EICC in Edinburgh to raise money for Hearts + Balls, a rugby charity which supports players who suffer life-changing injuries.
While both brothers fervently hope the current side can emulate the teams of ’84 and ’90, they are mindful of Scotland coming a cropper against Wales last year after beating England in the opener.
“I look back to the squads of 1984 and 1990. Nobody was thinking ahead, it was literally the next game,” said Scott Hastings. “They just concentrated on what was in front of them next. Nobody got carried away.”
Eddie Jones labelled Scotland “red hot favourites” ahead of last Saturday’s game in an attempt to get into the minds of the home side. It didn’t work and Gavin Hastings believes results on the first weekend of the championship, with Wales going down heavily in Dublin, mean Scotland really will be the favourites in Cardiff.
“The expectations will be huge,” he said. “Scotland will be favourites on Saturday and rightly so. There is nothing wrong with that. They must make sure they deal with that pressure. They won in Wales [in 2020], they lost to Wales a year ago here, they must make sure they get that victory on Saturday.”
The win two years ago came at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli because the Principality Stadium was being used as a field hospital during Covid. You have to go back to 20 years for Scotland’s last win in Cardiff and in that period Wales have won the Six Nations Championship six times.
However, the current squad have been ravaged by injuries and the consensus is that this is not a vintage Welsh side.
“I have no doubt that if Scotland play to their potential they will win the game on Saturday,” added Gavin. “I genuinely believe that because they are very much good enough to win the game.
“I’m amazed we haven’t won there since 2002, that seems an incredibly long time ago, which it is, so let's try and right that record.”
Wales were distinctly second best in Dublin at the weekend but are likely to be a different proposition roared on by a 70,000-plus crowd this Saturday and Scott Hastings expects a reaction in front of their own fans.
“They were outgunned by a superb Ireland team, they were caught in the headlights,” said the former centre. “I think everybody expected it to happen and I think, psychologically, maybe Wales expected it to happen.
“However, back in the Principality, we’ve talked about the atmosphere, we’ve talked about the way they’re going to come into the game. They’ve got a lot of experience and there will be a bounce back, undoubtedly so. But there’s got to be some momentum with Scotland and they’ve got to put that team under pressure and turn the screw.
“They need to ensure they play a territory game as well – they can’t play all their rugby from deep. They need to try to manipulate the game in their favour.
“There are times when you are in control in international rugby and times when you are not and when you’re not you’ve got to ensure your defensive systems are in place.”
While they didn’t fire on all cylinders against England, Townsend’s side still came away with the victory and Gavin Hastings senses a growing maturity in a squad which is learning different ways to win.
“There is a belief among the players now,” he said. “I guess the thing that impressed me most was Matt Fagerson being interviewed for his man of the match performance. Listening to him I could tell his feet were very firmly on the ground.
“The same for Stuart Hogg. He has really matured into the role of captain. He has learned over the years how to captain the side and not get too carried away emotionally. That for me was as impressive as how they came back. Feet firmly on the ground.
“They realise if they don’t get a victory this Saturday all that excitement, all that adrenaline had been effectively for nothing. That is not to say it is not going to be very, very hard. Of course it is. But they will go there with their tails up and a lot of confidence.
“Let's just accept the fact we may be favourites, deal with it and come away with Cardiff with a victory.”
Just don’t mention the G**** S***.
Gavin and Scott Hastings were at BT Murrayfield to re-launch the Grand Slam Celebration Dinner, which will take on Saturday, May 22 at the EICC. Tickets are now available at heartsandballs.org.uk
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