WHEN the Finn Russell saga erupted two weeks ago, it prompted a huge response in the press and on social media, with every man and his dog voicing an opinion on what should or should not happen next.

Fortunately, the man who found himself thrust into the eye of the storm had the inner steel to cope with all the extra pressure which was inevitably heaped upon his shoulders, deciding to cut himself off from all the hype so that he could concentrate purely on the task in hand.

“There is always a focus on the number 10 so there was nothing which was new in that sense,” said Adam Hastings, who inherited the jersey for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin. “It was more the Twitter and keyboard warriors coming out and labelling you, but I just came off social media and deleted my twitter account, so I didn’t read any of it.

“I’ve deleted my account a couple of times before,” he added. “I did it before the PRO14 Grand Final at Celtic Park last year and I did it this week. I thought it would all kick-off just after the whole thing with Finn, so I took myself away from that.

“Maybe when I was younger I would have been into it and read it and allowed it to get into my head, but I’ve stayed off it this time... although I might download it tonight and have a wee read.”

The stand-off also revealed that Russell had been in touch before the match to offer words of encouragement, and the 23-year-old also showed admirable maturity and level-headedness when becoming the first member of the squad to speak about the banished player’s plight with something approaching a sympathetic tone.


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“Finn is a class bloke, he’s been brilliant with me ever since I arrived at Glasgow a few years ago, he’s been a good friend of mine ever since,” said Hastings. “It was really nice of him to text me and it helped make me feel comfortable.

“He’s fully Scottish and he wanted to play for Scotland, which he has done very well [in the past]. He was wishing us all the best so there is no bad blood at all.”

Hastings may have had a fairly low-key game by his own often flamboyant standards, but he was quietly authoritative and assured, which was exactly what the team needed in the circumstances. He kicked all of Scotland’s points from the tee in the 12-19 loss at the Aviva Stadium, and ensured that the away team spent more than their fair share of the game on the front foot – even if he couldn’t quite manage to conjure the moment of magic required to break Ireland’s excellent defence for a try.

“In the first 20 minutes we took the game to them well,” he reflected. “They managed to get a try which was disappointing but we felt we were on top.

“We had a couple of chances in their 22 during the first half where we felt we could have got over the line,” he continued.

“Then the second half was a strange game because it seemed like: penalty, penalty and kick to the corner – so there wasn’t much phase play, which from my point of view was frustrating.

“I think you saw that phase-play wise [in the first half], we can cut teams apart. We have shown that in the last three years. Now it’s about being able to convert and getting over the line.”

Of course, there was one gilt-edged scoring opportunity which Scotland didn’t take, when Ali Price and Blair Kinghorn sent Stuart Hogg over the line unchallenged with just under half an hour to go, only for the captain to inexplicably fumble the ball as he bent to touch down for a score which, if converted, would have tied the match.


“We were really unlucky with Hoggy in the corner and that could have been a momentum shift,’ acknowledged Hastings. “He’s such a competitive player so he’s disappointed with that. It’s a chance gone but he’s probably due one after all the moments of brilliance he’s produced over the years, so we will let him off.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was also at pains to stress that the blame for defeat should not be heaped at Hogg’s door, and lavished praise on the player for his conduct during a tough first two weeks as captain.

“He was ill on Thursday, missed training and was in his bed,” revealed the coach. “The adversity the team has gone through and how Stuart has led the team with so many challenges in front of him gives me great encouragement in terms of how great a captain he can be over the next few years.”

Asked about the likelihood of Russell returning to the squad for next Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash against England at Murrayfield, the coach sounded doubtful. “We will see,” he replied. “It is not something I have thought about since the end of the game.”