The former Scotland full-back talks through his memories of the 2019 World Cup and explains why he’d like to travel to Japan again
Gavin Hastings on a journey to remember in Japan
I’ve been to every World Cup final now and 2019 was probably the latest I arrived – just before the Scotland-Russia match.
It was fairly obvious that unless Scotland played pretty well against Ireland we were going to be up against it. Obviously, everything was going to come down to the wire against Japan. I thought that they recovered well to beat Samoa and score the requisite number of tries.
With Russia, it was always going to be the second-string team that went out there, but the positive manner in which they played – and Adam, my son, was involved in that as well – that was great fun to be part of.
We’d arrived the day before and all of a sudden we were right into it. It was the most beautiful day, it was a wonderful stadium and it was a terrific crowd. Scotland played very well that day. It was a very proud moment for Diane and me, his mum and dad.
I remember the very first Rugby World Cup, in ‘87, my folks were out there watching my brother Scott and me, and now I am roughly the same age as my dad was then. So there it is, 32 years on and it’s the next generation. When you see your son playing in an international stadium and it’s going well, then you can be justified in feeling very proud.
I was there for Japan versus Scotland, which was tremendous. It’s one that will live long in memories I’m sure – clearly for all the Japan supporters.
Japan really played extremely well. They were terrific, and deserving victors. Just the anticipation going into that game and the excitement of the crowd in Yokohama – it was pretty full-on. Just seeing the Japanese supporters there in huge numbers and displaying the team colours.
That was probably the highlight of the World Cup for me: the anticipation going into that game and all that was on offer to the winners. The result didn’t go the right way, but I thought it was a cracking game of rugby.
If you look back, it was just the manner of our performance against Ireland that, for me, was the most galling aspect of Scotland’s World Cup. That we just didn’t pitch up there.
We’d been together for 100 days, they made a big point of that. There’s no question they spent more money on the preparation for that World Cup than any other. They failed to deliver, certainly in that Ireland game, and then it was always going to be an uphill push after that.
So, good on Japan, but yes, I think Scotland and Ireland will probably not take a huge amount of satisfaction out of the World Cup. Apart from assessing the relative merits of some of their younger players, who I think will feature fairly heavily in the Six Nations next year.
I would love to go back to Japan, and I’m sure we will. I was even contemplating whether we might go for the sevens next year. That would be great, having been there, and knowing how the bullet train works and whatever else.
I travelled with InsideJapan Tours and went to a few of their rugby events. We didn’t do too much this time – we were down in Kyoto, and we went out to the bamboo forest, which I was very taken with. It was a real tourist spot, but it just had a uniqueness and a charm about it.
Then we jumped on a bus back into town, which in itself was quite interesting, and visited the golden temple (Kinkakuji). My god, that was breathtakingly beautiful. I mean, just stunning.
The weather was beautiful, the bullet trains are amazing to travel on, the people were amazing, and the places where you go and get food, and all the beautiful packaging that you get, you know? It’s extraordinary.
It really made a big impact on me. I think next time I would like to go north and south and see the extremities. I have no doubt that we’ll go back there one day and try to see a bit more.
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