The 65-cap Scot believes that last year was expected to be the year where Scotland produced their best, but they failed and they are now trying to figure things out with a younger squad.
Some of those youngsters have starred for club and country including the likes of Jamie Ritchie, Darcy Graham and Magnus Bradbury, but Hastings is worried that they will lack the guidance of experienced players with veterans such as Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay and Tommy Seymour retiring after last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“I think Scotland are in for a tough season. There is a new era ahead. The team needs to try to put the World Cup to bed but they have lost three experienced heads in Laidlaw, Barclay and Seymour. There needs to be a new energy coming into the team and you can see Gregor is trying to do that with the six uncapped players he has included in his Six Nations squad. But has Gregor learned from the failure of last year? There was a lot of expectancy on the team but they imploded on numerous occasions,” he said while speaking to PA news agency.
With that in mind Hastings believes that other players in the squad need to step up including Finn Russell, who is now one of the most experienced players in the squad.
“The things we need to see is how does George Horne become that experienced player, how does Finn Russell strike that balance between exuberance, mercurial brilliance with also the need to be pinpoint accurate so he can deliver a winning performance for Scotland. In the forwards, how does Zander Fagerson turn himself into the number one tighthead in the Six Nations, how does Jonny Gray become the Alun Wyn Jones of Scottish rugby?” he added.
However, he doesn’t believe that Scotland will be the only side in transition this year with Ireland and Wales in a similar boat in his eyes. While he is backing the title to head to either England or France this season.
“I think Ireland and Wales are going through something a bit of a transitional period, similar to Scotland. England and France undoubtedly look like the teams to beat but I’m afraid Scotland are looking at fourth, fifth and sixth. I know that sounds harsh and when I played I certainly never went into a season thinking like that. But while I’m still a passionate Scotland supporter this time I’ve got to lead my head rule my heart. They have shown in glimpses that they can play well but you need more than that to compete for a Six Nations title,” he finished up with.
Scotland will want an improvement from last season, where they only managed a win against Italy and a draw with England in the Six Nations as well as exiting the World Cup in the pool stages.
However, they face a tough task this time around with their opening game against an Ireland side under new management and eager to impress their new coaches.
Scotland change 3 for Italian Clash
Scotland have won 22 of the 30 Tests between the nations but the odds are more evenly stacked when they meet in Italy, with the contests level on six apiece thanks to a recent run of four consecutive away wins for the Scots.
Townsend said: “Italy are always a very tough opponent, especially in Rome, where we know they’ll look to play with a huge amount of energy.
“It’s a different Italy team to the one we’ve played in the past. In their opening two games of the championship they have played with real ambition and width.
“They’ve also selected athletic, ball players who suit this strategy and are comfortable playing at a high tempo.
“We are well aware of the threats throughout their team and how their attacking game can cause problems for any defence.”
McInally swaps places with Glasgow Warriors’ Fraser Brown, who moves to the bench, and Toolis comes in for the injured Jonny Gray (hand), while Harris is picked in favour of Huw Jones, with Sale Sharks wing Byron McGuigan taking his place on the bench.
Reflecting on the team changes, Townsend added: “We believe Chris [Harris] and Stuart [McInally] deserve this opportunity. They were very close to the starting fifteen when we entered this campaign. We think this is the right time for them to come in.
“Chris has been excellent for Gloucester this season and has continued to make improvements since the summer. He works very hard on both sides of the ball, which will be important this week.
“Stuart [McInally] has shown over the past few weeks he’s back to full fitness and is raring to go and Ben gets an opportunity to start following Jonny’s injury against England.
“Second-row is a position we have a lot of competition with a number of very good players available for selection. We’re looking forward to seeing how he combines again with Scott [Cummings] after a successful outing together against Russia in the World Cup.”
Glasgow Warriors pairing Ali Price and Adam Hastings return at half-back for a third Test in a row, with clubmate Sam Johnson retained in midfield to partner Harris.
Edinburgh wing Blair Kinghorn – who scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture at BT Murrayfield last season – is joined once more by Sean Maitland (wing) and captain Stuart Hogg (full-back) in the back field.
Props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland join McInally in the front-row, with Scott Cummings reinstated to partner Toolis at lock.
The all-Edinburgh back-row of Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury makes up the loose trio once again to complete the pack.
In all the replacements bench features four changes, with second-row Grant Gilchrist and wing McGuigan taking the places vacated by the promoted Harris and Toolis, while Edinburgh tighthead Willem Nel and recent squad addition Matt Fagerson (back-row) replace Simon Berghan and Nick Haining respectively.
Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham returned to training last week but has not yet recovered sufficiently from his knee injury to be considered for this Test match.
Squad Update from Scottish Rugby
Four Changes for England Ahead of Ireland Showdown
England have made four changes to their starting line-up ahead of this weekend’s clash with rivals Ireland and there is a surprise selection in the back-line
In the pack Joe Marler takes the place of Mako Vunipola, who misses the game through family reasons, while in the backs Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph come in.
The only surprise being that regular centre Joseph will start on the wing for his 50th international test.
Courtney Lawes continues at blindside-flanker, with Sam Underhill on the openside and Tom Curry is once again selected at No 8 despite many fans and pundits calling for him to be shifted back to the flank.
Youngs links-up with George Ford in the half-backs, with captain Owen Farrell and Tuilagi outside them in the midfield pairing.
Joseph starts on the left-wing, with Jonny May on the right and Elliot Daly shifts to full-back to complete the starting line-up.
There is a six-two forwards to backs split on the bench with the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Joe Launchbury among the replacements for the pack while Willi Heinz and the returning Henry Slade are cover for the backs.
Speaking ahead of the game Jones believes that his team are well prepared for the clash but knows how dangerous Ireland can be.
“We’ve had a really good training week with Thursday probably our best session of the Guinness Six Nations. Ireland are a very good team, extremely well-coached. They are a team we respect a lot. They will bring their usual physicality and under Andy Farrell they’ve opened up their game a little bit. They are a tactically smart team. Murray and Sexton, who have played 170 Tests between them, at nine and 10 will manage the game well. We’ve got to make sure we match their physicality and their emotion on the weekend. We trained at Twickenham Stadium in front of 10,000 fans last Friday and we can’t wait to get back out there in front of 80,000 people on Sunday,” he said.
England will head into the game looking to get their championship title tilt back on track, but come up against an Ireland team hoping to seal a Triple Crown and continue their march towards a Grand Slam in what is set to be a massive encounter against two fierce rivals.
Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.
15 Elliot Daly (Saracens, 41 caps)
14 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 54 caps)
13 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 41 caps)
12 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 81 caps) C
11 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 49 caps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 67 caps)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 97 caps)
1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 69 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 47 caps)
3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 33 caps)
4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 36 caps)
5 George Kruis (Saracens, 43 caps)
6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 83 caps)
7 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 17 caps)
8 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 21 caps)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 16 caps)
18 Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
19 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 63 caps)
20 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 13 caps)
21 Ben Earl (Saracens, 1 cap)
22 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 11 caps)
23 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 27 caps)
Wales Make Two Changes for French Test
Wales have made only two changes to their starting line-up for this weekend’s crunch clash with France in the Six Nations
There is a change a piece in the forwards and the backs from the 24-14 loss to Ireland, with Ross Moriarty comes into the pack, while Gareth Davies returns to the half-backs.
The rest of the team remains the same with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Dillon Lewis making up the front-row, with Jake Ball partnering captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row once again.
Moriarty takes up a place as blindside-flanker, with Justin Tipuric on the openside and Taulupe Faletau completes the forward pack from No 8.
Davies links-up with Dan Biggar in the half-backs, and they have Hadleigh Parkes and Nick Tompkins outside them in the midfield.
Josh Adams stays on the left-wing after recovering from an injury picked up in the last game, with George North on the right and Leigh Halfpenny continues at full-back.
There is plenty of talent on the bench for Pivac to call upon if needed with the likes of Ryan Elias, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams and Johnny McNicholl among the replacements.
Wales are hoping to get their title defence back on track with a win at home to the French, but will know that they need a big performance with the French unbeaten in their opening two games and chasing a Grand Slam.
Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (87 Caps)
14. George North (93 Caps)
13. Nick Tompkins (2 Caps)
12. Hadleigh Parkes (27 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (23 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (81 Caps)
9. Gareth Davies (52 Caps)
1. Wyn Jones (24 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (75 Caps)
3. Dillon Lewis (24 Caps)
4. Jake Ball (44 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (C) (136 Caps)
6. Ross Moriarty (43 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (74 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (74 Caps)
16. Ryan Elias (11 Caps)
17. Rob Evans (37 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (8 Caps)
19. Will Rowlands (*Uncapped)
20. Aaron Wainwright (20 Caps)
21. Tomos Williams (18 Caps)
22. Jarrod Evans (5 Caps)
23. Johnny McNicholl (2 Caps)
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