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Gavin Hastings Article



Gavin Hastings â€" Born January 3, 1962 in Edinburgh, of Watsonians, Cambridge University Rugby Football Club, Scotland national rugby union team and the British and Irish Lions was an outstanding rugby player of his generation. With 61 caps won between 1986 and 1995 and a national record of 733 points, there can be little doubt that the Watsonian is one of Scotland's best ever players, if not the best. His trademark was ultra reliable goal kicking and fearless tackling, but amongst his many other achievements he also scored 17 tries to place him third on Scotland's all time list on his retirement. At 6' 2" and weighing 15 stone, Gavin had the physical attributes to dominate at fullback and his power was reminsicent of JPR Williams at his best ten years earlier. Given his phenomenal talent and superbly athletic physique, it at first seems odd that Gavin was actually a very reluctant trainer, a trait he had in common with another great fullback of his era, Serge Blanco. However, Gavin was a man who saw little point in leaving his game on the practice field, and was the master at performing when it really counted. As a youth he showed his pedigree by becoming the first player to captain a Scottish schoolboys side to win in England and, in 1985, went on to skipper Cambridge University to victory in the Varsity Match. Full international honours came his way in 1986 when he displaced incumbent fullback Peter Dods in the Scotland side to face France at Murrayfield, joining his younger brother Scott in the process. Gavin suffered the worst possible start to his career when he put the ball straight into touch from the kick off, a blunder which resulted in a try to the opposition. Lesser men would have crumbled, but Gavin showed his character by hitting back with a record six penalties to down the French 18-17. Later in the season Gavin also helped put England to sword at Murrayfield with a 21 point haul in Scotland's 33-6 win. A 10-9 win in Ireland in their final fixture left the Scots with six points from their four games. All in all it was a highly successful introduction to the international game and by winning three from four, Scotland had backed up their 1984 Grand Slam with a share of first place in the Championship. On a personal note Gavin's haul of 52 points was a Championship record, a fine achievement in his debut season. In a one off international against Romania later in the year Gavin then equalled his tally against England with another 21 point haul.

In 1987 Scotland turned in a creditable performance in the Five Nations Championship with two wins out of four and headed for the first World Cup in good spirits. Gavin shone with the boot in the group stages by scoring 27 points against Romania and 19 against Zimbabwe. However, a draw with France in the opening game and an inferior points difference put them in a quarter-final with New Zealand, the tournament favourites. The match was lost 30-3 with Gavin scoring Scotland's only points. After an average season in 1988, Gavin earned selection for the British Lions tour to Australia in 1989 and kept the fullback slot for all three tests. Hastings performed superbly during the rubber and scored 28 crucial points in what proved to be the narrowest of series victories. In 1990 Gavin then helped Scotland to win the Grand Slam when they beat England 13-7 at Murrayfield after grinding out wins in the first three matches. The Scots celebrated their win long and hard and treated fans to an amusing display at the Hong Kong Sevens a month later. Standing in a line facing the stands, the Scottish players lifted their kilts in unison to reveal the words "GRAND SLAM WINNERS 1990" on their underwear! However, in 1991 Scotland were unsuccessful in their defence of the Championship, losing to France in Paris and overcome by a vengeful and determined England at Twickenham. The sides were destined to meet again in the World Cup later in the year, and Scotland were confident that having home advantage would pay dividends. However, in a typically gritty encounter, England gained more sweet revenge over Scotland with a 9-6 victory after Gavin had missed an easy penalty with the scores tied at 6-6. The Scots then lost 13-6 to New Zealand in the 3/4th play off during which Gavin administered one of the best tackles of the tournament, bundling a New Zealand opponent about ten feet into touch with a JPR Williams style hit. However, Gavin's involvement in World Cup 1991 didn't end there. He and the other Scottish players arrived at Twickenham on the day of the final dressed in the Green and Gold of Australia to cheer on England's opponents!

You should also mention that he captained the Lions on their '93 tour to New Zealand. In the second test at Athletic Park his side won 20-7 with Hastings kicking four penalties. This was the last time that Lions had beaten the All Blacks making Hastings the last Lions captain to win against the All Blacks.

In that game the All Blacks were so concerned about the long distance kicking ability by Hastings that they did not dare concede any penalties anywhere in their own half.

The All Blacks went on to win the series 2-1 but the Lions were led well by their Scottish captain.

Gavin Hastings made his final international rugby appearance against the All Blacks in Pretoria, South Africa in the 1995 World Cup Quarter Final. Scotland lost that game 48-30 and continued a trend that Scotland's last game of each of the previous world cups (1987, 1991) would end up with them playing the All Blacks. This would also be the case in 1999 but not 2003.

It seems ironic that Hastings last game would be against the All Blacks - it was a team that always had a lot of empathy with him and also a hell of a lot of respect.

Another interesting note about Gavin Hastings was that in 1996 he played for the Scottish Claymores in the WLAF (American Football) and won that year's World Bowl at Murrayfield.
I think one of his best performances came in the Scottish victory in Paris, the way he combined with Townsend for the winning try was superb, taking the inside line brilliantly and having the gas to make it to the line. Great moment. Class act alright.