Gavin Hastings: Finn Russell can own fly-half berth

Finn Russell had an impressive game against Argentina says Gavin Hastings, pictured below
Finn Russell had an impressive game against Argentina says Gavin Hastings, pictured below
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Former Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings has sung the praises of rookie stand-off (fly-half) Finn Russell after his third cap, and BT Murrayfield debut, produced an assured display.

Russell, 22, looks set to retain his place against New Zealand on Saturday and Hastings believes the one-time Falkirk prospect, who plays for Glasgow, has finally solved a problem role.

Russell is the fifth stand-off used by Scotland during the past two years after Greig Laidlaw, Tom Heathcote, Ruari Jackson and Duncan Weir.

Hastings, below, says: “We have really struggled to find a fly-half in recent years.”

And, referring to Saturday’s 41-31 win over Argentina, Hastings also revealed: “It was the first time I’d seen Finn Russell play live.

“He’s very confident, very self-assured, with passing excellent, decision-making excellent, and kicking out of hand excellent.

“On the evidence of what I saw, I am very excited about the future.

“If that guy can keep clear of injury and play as well as he did, maybe we have found a fly-half who can stand in for five, six or seven years.

“That will be very important for Scotland’s chances.”

Hastings believes Russell was helped by the class and composure shown by half-back partner Greig Laidlaw, whom he labelled one of the best players, pound for pound, in world rugby.

“People talk about who would be the best pound for pound rugby player playing,” said Hastings. “Greig Laidlaw, in his own way, has been a truly courageous player for many, many years. He was brilliant. It’s easy to overstate that and make too much of it, but he just got everything going.

“His decision making was terrific, his passing great and his breaking terrific.

“Greig got everybody running off him at different angles, and his goal kicking was exemplary, particularly the touchline conversion that enabled Scotland to make up the deficit early on and go on from there.

“Pound for pound I do believe Greig is one of the very best rugby players in the world.”

Arguments now exist as to whether coach Vernon Cotter should stick closely to a side that has found a try-scoring formula.

Hastings, speaking to Talksport, is in no doubt, saying: “Scotland always struggle in the numbers game against England and Wales through the sheer volume of players in each of those countries.

“What they need to do is get the best players playing in pretty successful sides and just be able to build from that.

“I actually think that Vern is going to be a guy who is not going to chop and change the team. He likes combinations.

“All Scots hoped he’d do something special and, on the evidence, he has got off to a fine start.

“There’s not that many internationals between now and the World Cup.

“If he can get the guys who give him the best chance of doing as well as possible (and), if that means using 22 or 23 players rather than double that number, I support that.

“All of a sudden there seems to be some sort of depth of proven guys who have played international rugby.”

At the same time as extolling the virtues of a team that play with belief and have confidence in the management, Hastings urges caution.

“We have played a team that came off the back of a Rugby Championship and looked absolutely knackered.

“It will be interesting to see how they go in the rest of the Autumn internationals, and clearly, a lot tougher matches (for Scotland) lie on the road ahead in the next 12 months.”

As for Saturday’s eagerly-awaited encounter with the world champions, Hastings says: “It would be terrific for Scotland to be competitive for as long as possible and to take as much out of the game as they can.”