Rugby Union / Five Nations Championship: Hastings double act can be catalyst: Davies counsels caution and Cooke calls for quality as France hope to be stirred by wooden spoon

Click to follow
The Independent Online
NOBODY, at least nobody north of the border, complained about a lack of tries when Scotland beat France 18-17 at Murrayfield in 1986. Instead they toasted a matchwinner and successor to Andy Irvine in Gavin Hastings, who kicked six penalties. He has gone on to amass 454 points.

Today, Hastings and his brother Scott, who made his debut in the same match, both win their 50th caps, one of the great doubles in international sport. The Krays were scarcely more formidable. France are again the opposition, Murrayfield the venue and the sense of deja vu stops there. Eight years ago Scotland went on to hammer England with Scott scoring the final try.

It is not with the best of timing that the Hastings' double act should coincide with a match to decide the wooden spoon. Gavin, at 32 three years older than his brother, acknowledged as much yesterday when he said: 'It would only be a memorable day if Scotland win.'

Scotland visit Argentina in May and June without the brothers and will use the six-match tour to develop a squad for next year's World Cup in South Africa. Gavin, captain of the Lions in New Zealand, has no plans to retire. Indeed, he gives the impression that a mention of it is a personal insult. 'My intention,' he said, 'is to win another 50 caps.' Asked for a realistic goal he replied: 'Another 60 caps.'

Scotland are the only team in the Five Nations' Championship without a victory although, after the obliteration by New Zealand at the beginning of the season and a heavy loss to Wales, they would have beaten England but for a penalty by Jonathan Callard (remember him?) in the dying seconds.

'We've worked very hard,' Hastings the elder said. 'People don't understand how hard and we've been unlucky with injuries. It's been disappointing but it wouldn't have taken an awful lot for us to be going for a third victory. We've shown improvements and victory would go some way towards relieving the disappointment of the season. Scotland have a great record at Murrayfield and I see no reason why we shouldn't be slight favourites.' With Gary Armstrong injured, Bryan Redpath wins his first full cap and forms, with the 20-year-old Gregor Townsend, a half-back partnership that could serve Scotland in Argentina and beyond.

The decline of the French, who defeated Australia before opening their Five Nations campaign with a 35-15 win over Ireland, is one of the great conundrums of the season. The last time they had sole possession of the wooden spoon was in 1969.

The number of French journalists covering the match has gone down from 55 to 45, yet should France lose - they have not won here since 1978 - they would probably have a story. Pierre Berbizier expects to receive what all unsuccessful French coaches receive, namely a one-way ticket on the tumbril. 'I know my job is at stake,' he said.

Olivier Roumat, wholeheartedly endorsed as captain by Berbizier, was axed last week. The leadership goes to Philippe Saint-Andre who has no captaincy experience with his club, Montferrand. Fresh blood is introduced in Olivier Brouzet and Yann Delaigue, both 21, and Alain Macabiau.

Brouzet, 18st 4lb, teams up in the second row with his Grenoble clubmate, Olivier Merle, who is even bigger and heavier. Delaigue, who has already won a French championship with Toulon and has played for France A, is expected to provide, with the 27-year-old Macabiau, the flair and creative link to restore the fortunes of the French house of fashion and save Berbizier's neck.

Nobody thought it would come to this, least of all the BBC, who have Bill McLaren here instead of at the decider at Twickenham. The list of who goes where was drawn up in September and apparently there is no flexibility. 'I'm the wooden spoon commentator,' McLaren, who covered his first match in 1953, said. 'They'll be pensioning me off before long.' He was, of course, joking.

----------------------------------------------------------------- SCOTLAND v FRANCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- (at Murrayfield) G Hastings Watsonians, capt 15 J-L Sadourny Colomiers A Stanger Hawick 14 P Saint-Andre Montferrand, capt S Hastings Watsonians 13 P Sella Agen D Wyllie Stewart's Melville FP 12 Y Delaigue Toulon K Logan Stirling County 11 W Techoueyres Bordeaux University G Townsend Gala 10 T Lacroix Dax B Redpath Melrose 9 A Macabiau Perpignan A Sharp Bristol 1 L Benezech Racing Club K Milne Heriot's FP 2 J-M Gonzales Bayonne P Burnell London Scottish 3 L Seigne Merignac S Munro Glasgow High/Kelvinside 4 O Brouzet Grenoble A Reed Bath 5 O Merle Grenoble P Walton Northampton 6 P Benetton Agen G Weir Melrose 8 A Benazzi Agen I Smith Gloucester 7 L Cabannes Racing Club Replacements: 16 M Dods (Gala), Replacements: 16 E N'tamack (Toulouse), 17 C Chalmers (Melrose), 18 A Nicol 17 P Montlaur (Agen), 18 F Galthie (Dundee HSFP), 19 C Hogg (Melrose), (Colomiers), 19 X Blond (Racing Club), 20 P Wright (Boroughmuir), 21 K 20 F Landreau (Grenoble), 21 P Gallart McKenzie (Stirling County). (Beziers). Referee: D Bevan (Wales). Kick-off: 2.30. TV: BBC 1 highlights 4.15. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Comments