Adam Hastings: Learning Curve
Adam Hastings’ 2018/19 season finished in a very different place to where it began. Over the course of 12 months he made his Scotland debut and earned 11 caps for the national side across the Summer Tour, Autumn Tests and Guinness Six Nations, while increasing his tally of Glasgow Warriors match appearances to 32 with 242 points scored for the Warriors along the way.
For someone who twelve months earlier hadn’t played a huge amount of rugby at professional level, it’s been a huge step up, but the 22-year-old is enjoying every minute and is now in contention for a spot on the plane to Japan for Rugby World Cup 2019.
“If you’d asked me last year if I’d be going to the world cup I’d have said ‘no’, but it’s all changed very quickly - that’s obviously the beauty of this game,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to work towards and I set it as a goal when I joined Glasgow.
“I wanted to be in the world cup squad, and whether or not I thought it would happen or not, I wanted it to happen and I’ve worked hard to get here, so fingers crossed.”
As his rugby CV grows, Hastings is increasingly being recognised as a player in his own right, rather being referred to as ‘Gavin Hastings’ son’ or ‘Scott Hastings’ nephew’.
The stand-off is a product of George Watson’s College and Millfield School and was a regular in Scotland’s age grade sides, gaining caps at U16, U18, U19 and U20.
He joined Glasgow from Bath in 2017, but with Finn Russell still a part of the Warriors’ set-up at that point, he didn’t see a huge amount of game time. Despite that, Hastings impressed with his willingness to attack the line, scoring 59 points in nine appearances during his first season at the club.
When Russell departed for Paris to join Racing 92, everything changed and Hastings gives his former team-mate full credit for helping him improve his game.
“When I joined Glasgow I I was a bit younger and I hadn’t played much so I don’t think I was too much of a competitor to Finn,” he said.
“He took me under his wing and I don’t think he appreciates how much he helps me - just speaking to him and getting little tips from him, and I think I probably learned most just from watching him.
“At the start of the 18/19 season there was potential that his role was going to be filled by someone and I think that between myself, Pete Horne and Brandon Thomson we filled it pretty well.
“It was great to be out there playing, doing what I’ve wanted to do for ages, which was to string a lot of game time together. Obviously we didn’t get over the line at the end of the season (against Leinster) but it was still a really enjoyable game for me.”
Hastings’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed and in May of this year he was presented with the Guinness PRO14’s Next-Gen Star of the Season award.
Hastings’ international debut took place in June 2018 when he came on as a replacement centre in the national team’s 48-10 win over Canada, going on to make his first start for Scotland week later in the national team’s 30-29 defeat to USA in Houston, Texas.
“It was incredible making my debut and it was quite unexpected at the time as I hadn’t played much that year” he said.
“It was great to get on that tour and it just gave me loads of confidence. When you dream of your debut, you think maybe it will be at BT Murrayfield, but it didn’t take away from the occasion at all, it was just amazing to get out there and win my first cap.”
Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend was full of praise for Hastings, along with Jamie Ritchie and Lewis Carmichael, who also made their debuts in Edmonton.
“Adam and Lewis had brilliant impacts for their first caps,” said Townsend. “Jamie Richie - he was outstanding.”
“The half-backs upped the pace of the game and it really took the game to the opposition.”
Following the narrow loss against USA, Townsend backed the young stand-off the following week in Resistencia, and Hastings repaid the vote of confidence by putting in a top performance in partnership with scrum-half George Horne to earn a 44-15 win.
Hastings featured in all four of Scotland’s 2018 Autumn Tests, scoring a try against Fiji, before being selected to take part in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations. It was his first experience of the tournament at senior level and he says it was a learning curve.
“It was definitely a step up,” he said. “Obviously I’d played a bit on tour and I’d had a handful of games for Glasgow by that point, but I was still relatively inexperienced and it was a very big step up.
“The Six Nations is way more competitive - the standard’s so much higher, it feels like everyone’s much more up for it, it’s on the big stage and you’re playing in front of thousands of people.
“It’s just even better and even more fun playing in front of those crowds and obviously your adrenaline’s going and as soon as you’re finished playing, you want to go again.”
Hastings came off the bench to fill the number 10 position in the games against Italy and France, but his replacement duties for the Wales match at BT Murrayfield were at full-back, following Stuart Hogg having picked up an injury against Ireland.
He might have been playing out of position, but Hastings impressed under pressure and was called upon again to take over from Sean Maitland at full-back in the last quarter of Scotland’s dramatic 38-38 Calcutta Cup draw at Twickenham.
Whatever circumstances arise, Hastings seems able to keep his cool and deal with what’s in front of him. He says that game management is an essential part of his role.
“It’s something I’m still learning,” he said. “I’ve not mastered it by any means, I’m still growing into it and I think that comes with time in the saddle, time playing.
“I think rather than watching you learn from getting out there and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting some more minutes on the pitch.”
Hastings says that the pre-RWC training regime has been tough but rewarding.
“The coaching team have taken care of us but also worked us hard - they’ve structured sessions well,” he said. “It’s been tough but it’s been good and I think everyone’s in the shape of their lives at the moment.”
Hastings will celebrate his 23rd birthday on 5 October and if all goes well, he’ll mark the occasion in Japan. The immediate future holds the home and away fixtures against Georgia.
“I’ve seen a bit of Georgia - they’re a passionate team and they’ll come out fighting," he said. "They won’t stop until the final whistle."