Scotland U20s kick off their World Rugby Under-20 Championship campaign on 7 June when they take on Australia at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford (5.30pm).
Among the youngster trying to help Scotland improve on last year’s eighth place finish is Adam Hastings – a player with a name that is legendary in Scottish rugby but who is plying his trade at a quintessentially English club.
The 19-year-old fly-half joined the Bath Academy in 2014, while he was finishing his education at nearby Millfield School, and went full time with them last summer. Hastings – son of Gavin and nephew of Scott – expected to spend the 2015-16 season in the Bath A team. “It was really just about getting used to men’s rugby because I hadn’t played it at all,” he says. “Being a full-time players has probably been a lot harder than I expected. Pre-season was a shock to the system but when the regular season began it wasn’t as bad.”
Then, in February, Hastings was thrown into the Aviva Premiership deep end when he was handed the No 10 jersey for two games as George Ford and Rhys Priestland were both unavailable.
“I never thought in a millions years that would happen so soon, but I was chucked in and it was quite an experience!” Hastings laughs. “In the first game, against Worcester, wasn’t expecting the amount of tackling I would have to do! I had to be moved out to centre for a couple of set pieces because they were running at me so much. It was good fun though. I was relishing every moment, but I couldn’t get my head around how physical it was and the next day I was completely battered.
“In the next game, against Exeter I knew what to expect a bit more but they are a class team and my performance was nowhere near where I would like to be. I know the benchmarks now that I need to reach to play at that level.”
Hastings has been able to pick the brains of England and Wales stars Ford and Priestland whenever he likes. “They are both really approachable,” he says. “They are not daunting to talk to, even though they are so high status.”
Having grown up in the Hastings family, Hastings has never been short of sources of good advice. Gavin won the last of his 61 Scotland caps in 1995, the year before Adam was born, but the youngster was soon made aware of his fame.
“I knew he was popular when I was younger but don’t think I realised how big it was until I was a bit older. I have seen videos of him playing which is special to watch. It is pretty cool having a dad like that. When I was younger I was a bit more vulnerable and it annoyed me a bit more but as I got older I learned to live with it.
“He was good. He wasn’t a pushy parent and he was happy when I was playing football as long as I was doing something I liked. He has always been there if I have wanted a word and I can ask him about anything. He took me kicking whenever I wanted to, and so did my mum, to be fair.”
Despite his famous name, Hastings was initially overlooked for Scotland U20 selection and so didn’t play at last year’s World Championship in Italy, but he stepped up from the U19s for the 2016 Six Nations and started three of the games, only missing the other two because he was needed at Bath.
The highlight was undoubtedly the 24-6 win over England, but defeats to Wales, France and Ireland left Scotland’s young players with mixed feelings. “Everyone was on such a high after the England game, then I came back to Bath and a couple of players went back to Edinburgh and we lost narrowly to Wales,” Hastings says. “We came back with a good win over Italy but the France and Ireland games were frustrating – we just didn’t quite click.”
Now Hastings and his U20 team-mates are looking to get back to winning ways at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester, where they take on England and Italy in their pool, as well as Australia.
Hastings is optimistic about Scotland’s chances. “We have got a brilliant squad and the coaches have a lot of confidence in us and we have confidence in each other. We should do very well if we are on the same page.
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“England are a good side so we need to be conscious of them, but the Australia game is massive. If we can get a first win over them that will set us up brilliantly. Manchester will be quite good as a venue for us because hopefully a lot of home fans will come down for the games.”
After their opening match against Australia, Scotland U20 play England on Saturday, 11 June at the Manchester City Academy Stadium (6pm) and Italy on Wednesday, 15 June at the same venue (3.15pm).