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'Best to play France at home', says Scottish rugby legend Hastings

Text by Mark OWEN

Latest update : 2010-02-04

Gavin Hastings (pictured at practice in 1991) spoke to FRANCE 24 ahead of the Six Nations tournament. No surprises as to whom this fierce competitor and proud Scotsman is backing to win the tournament.

The Six Nations Championship kicks off on Feb. 6 and will see England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales battling it out for the bragging rights in one of the Rugby world’s biggest tournaments. Ahead of this highly competitive rugby season highlight, FRANCE 24 spoke to Gavin Hastings -- arguably the greatest player to ever come out of Scotland -- to get his view on who he is backing to win.

Rather unsurprisingly, Hastings declared that he was backing his native Scotland to win the tournament.

THE FRANCE24 CONNECTION

Promising Ruaridh Jackson’s uncle is none other than our International Affairs Editor Robert Parsons. Rob – as far as we know – has limited rugby experience. But he too is rooting for a Scotland victory in the Six Nations tournament, while of course appreciating French flair and hoping overall for an exciting few weeks of rugby.

Rob and I watched a France – Scotland game at the Stade de France in 2007 when the Scots scored first but then the French took a firm grip on the tie. The atmosphere, as ever for the Six Nations Rugby, was warm, friendly and appreciative off the pitch. And totally committed, proud and competitive on it. But France had more than an edge in that particular match. It ended 46 – 19 to future Sports Minister Bernard Laporte’s XV.

Last season’s game finished 22 – 13 to France – a score line that Mr Parsons, Mr Hastings and the proud Scottish nation will be hoping to reverse!

Hastings went on to say, “We have France at home in our first game and we have to try knocking them off their perch. We have to try to cause some self doubt in their team and that time is now.”

Hastings, who is affectionately known as ‘Big Gav’, played for Scotland 61 times and is remembered as a marauding full back and captain. He remains one of the sport's best loved and respected names. He quit playing professional rugby in 1996, and was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2003.

Hastings was unsure about how the French side would perform despite the fact they are favourites, saying, “France... They’re exciting, frustrating, disappointing, and brilliant; choose any combination of those words… France is the most maddening team to watch and I feel for their supporters at times... They have a lot of talent. Why don’t they just go out and play with all that talent and flair?'

And with a nod towards the pundits in France backing Marc Lièvremont’s team to win the tournament, Hastings added:

“Best time to play France is at home and in the first game. They get better as the tournament goes on…”

Hastings was quick to praise the current Scotland set up and the head coach in particular: “Andy Robinson [a former assistant to England's World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward] has done a fine job with Edinburgh and we had a victory over Australia in the Autumn tournament.

“As ever we start the Six Nations optimistically, there have been some good performances in the Magners League and the Heineken Cup.”

Hasting went on to say, “We have a strong scrum, a good line out; we’re capable of competing really well. But we need backs capable of scoring tries...

“We have relied too often on Chris Patterson [Scotland’s record points scorer; wing, fly half or fullback, 183cm/80kg] but we need to look to more backs to score…
“But we’ve got the Evans boys [Max who plays for Glasgow, centre, 175cm/88kg and Thom, also at Glasgow, wing 188cm/91kg]…Simon Danielli [Ulster, wing / 102kg]…but we need more backs to score tries.”

Hastings says he is pleased to see youngster Ruaridh Jackson (fly half, Glasgow, 180cm/87kg, aged 20) included in the squad: “Number Ten is a position that has not been a strong point recently; a lot has been said about Ruaridh Jackson [Jackson is considered one of the most promising young players to emerge in Scotland for decades] and it’s good that he’s in the squad to give him confidence and experience.”

France, however, start the tournament as favourites to win the Six Nations, having won it in 2007, 2006, and having won a Grand Slam in 2004. This year’s vintage is also looking on fine form. With some recalled names like Rougerie, Elissalde, Marty and Papé, plus new blood like Bayonne winger Benjamin Fall, France could have the right blend to go all the way.

Date created : 2010-02-01

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