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THE BREAKDOWN, STEVE SCOTT: A risk when we don’t need one? Adam Hastings’ omission is puzzling

Adam Hastings is out of the Six Nations squad.

There’s gratitude for you.

It’s just two years after he piloted Scotland reasonably adeptly when Finn Russell took the huff. One year after he flung the miss pass that gave Duhan van der Merwe the space to win Scotland’s first game in Paris this century.

Yet Adam Hastings is out on his ear for Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad.

Adam was the obvious cover for loss of Finn

I don’t get it, and I’m not sure Adam will either. As we often mention in The Breakdown, current Australia coach Dave Rennie actually rated Hastings higher – long-term – than Finn when he had them together at Glasgow.

For all Dave’s avid love of open “footy”, he was not at all fond of Finn “pulling something out of his a—e” and not playing to strict orders.

For the rest of us, most anyway, Finn’s still the better 10. But he can get hurt or sent-off (like in Paris) and Hastings was the obvious cover.

Yet Adam’s not even in the squad, and the only other ‘regular’ 10 in the squad is a work-in-progress, Blair Kinghorn.

The enthusiasm with which Gregor and Mike Blair have promoted Blair’s conversion from full-back shows admirable confidence in him. He’s done well for Edinburgh but against mostly decent rather than top-class opposition.

Saracens in the Challenge Cup would have been Kinghorn’s biggest examination so far, but he missed that win through injury. He hasn’t played the top Irish provinces or top-order European games at 10.

And of course Scotland lost both Finn and Adam to injury in an hour at Llanelli 18 months ago.

Captain Hogg is now the cover…and…

Stuart Hogg filled in to pilot Scotland home that day. After a full outing at 10 against Italy last spring, the skipper is the third choice should calamity occur again.

“I think Hoggy and Rory Hutchinson are players who we will look at in that position,” said Townsend.

“Cam Redpath played there (for Bath) at the weekend but we don’t see him as a 10 right now. Rory was on the bench for us two Six Nations ago covering 10 and centre. He’s played a couple of games at full-back this year. He’s a good rugby player with a very good kicking game.

“I’m a big believer in ball-players, ball-carriers, rugby players playing in that position. Hoggy did that against Italy and had a really good game, and Rory goes into that category too.”

Hastings is certainly no slouch as a ball-player/carrier either, surely? But he is – arguably – less versatile than others and Townsend has shown a recent preference for a 6-2 forwards-backs split on the bench.

Adam was left out entirely from the Japan test 23 in November which was a pointer. Also, they don’t seem to be entirely impressed with his play since going to Gloucester.

But it’s still a little bit of a risk when there didn’t need to be one, you feel.

Redpath gets a crash course

After his brilliant debut in the win at Twickenham, Cam Redpath suffered a neck injury and then an ACL tear. His first game back was for Bath last weekend (at 10) against last year’s beaten finalists La Rochelle in the Champions’ Cup.

This week he plays Premiership leaders Leicester (including Matt Scott, possibly omitted to make way for him) and then champions Harlequins before the squad assemble at Oriam. It’s a decent test of roadworthiness.

“It depends on what he does the next two weeks,” Townsend said of Redpath’s chances of playing in the Calcutta Cup, the opener at Murrayfield. “He had a really good game at the weekend and it was his first game in eight months.

“He had a line-break and six tackle-breaks in his 55 minutes on the field so it was a pretty good start to getting your way back in.

“We’re not expecting him to be back at his best form yet, but if he is then he’ll definitely be in the mix (for England).”

The unexpected ringers…

There’s always one with Townsend. This time there’s three.

Andy Christie, a Saracens back rower who can play 8. He played Scotland Under-16s and has “broken through” for the former European champions this year.

Andy Christie of Saracens.

Townsend: “When you see a player who gets to that next level and stands out it shows that they’ve got the ability to play better alongside better players.

“His best position is probably 6. We like back-rows who are adaptable, quick and work hard and he’s all that.”

Kyle Rowe, a wing with London Irish, scored a hat-trick against Saracens in the Premiership.

Kyle Rowe of London Irish.

Townsend: “That’s a great story for someone who has not had the opportunities up in Scotland. He’s gone down to Irish and got into the team through some really good pre-season performances then backing it up.

“He’s an exciting player that we want to work with.”

He also fills the mullet quota now that Hamish Watson’s cut his off.

White ahead of Horne and Dobie

Ben White, also London Irish, somewhat surprisingly keeps George Horne and Jamie Dobie out. The Glasgow pair are victims of limited game time, said the coach.

Ben White of London Irish

Townsend: “(White) was involved in a game (for England) against the Barbarians (in 2019) and he played England age-group, but he’s Scottish qualified.

“We’ve been watching him the last couple of seasons. He’s didn’t get much game time when at Leicester, but this year he’s played a lot of rugby with London Irish.

“We’ve been connecting with him since around November – and he’s been really keen to be involved if that chance comes up and it did after yesterday’s selection meeting.”

“I’m sure George and Jamie would have got some more minutes if we’d had those 1872 Cup games, but we have to reward players in form.”

Hence the due reward and selection for Ben Vellacott, Mark Bennett and Magnus Bradbury.

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