Rugby Union: Hastings at the helm for Scotland

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The Independent Online
GAVIN HASTINGS was yesterday appointed David Sole's successor as captain of Scotland, an unusually confident selectorial move with the opening match of the Five Nations' Championship against Ireland still more than six weeks away.

Moreover Hastings, 30, the Lions full-back in Australia in 1989, is already installed for the season - instantly making him the leading rival to England's Will Carling for the captaincy on the Lions tour to New Zealand next summer.

Craig Chalmers was the only other contender for the Scotland job but the outside-half effectively had his credentials withdrawn when the South of Scotland selectors took the district captaincy from him after he had chosen to sit on the Barbarians' bench against Australia last Saturday rather than play for the South against Glasgow. Chalmers is not best pleased.

The Scottish team to play the Irish will not be named until the customary time 10 days before the match - which is when in the past the captaincy would have been resolved too. Instead Sole's retirement after three years at the helm has persuaded the selectors to get on with it.

So Hastings has not had even to complete the Inter-District Championship, in which he leads Edinburgh, let alone undergo the Murrayfield trial on 2 January before being elevated. 'I'm delighted they've done it this way,' he said. 'It gives me an opportunity to settle into the role rather than spend the lead-up to the Irish game coming to terms with it.'

He won his 41st cap during Scotland's tour to Australia last June but injuries severely affected him Down Under, ultimately deprived him of his place in the second Test, and were the one thing that gave pause for thought before yesterday's announcement. Indeed Duncan Paterson, the selectors' convenor, said that the decision had been taken a while ago. 'If we had had an autumn international, the captain would have identified himself then,' Paterson said. 'Gavin is the best man for the job. It was just a question of receiving assurance as to his own personal fitness. He is excellent leadership material. He is a world figure and I am sure he will prove an inspiration to the Scotland team.'

Welsh rugby is building up to another of its great club confrontations when Cardiff play Swansea, second against first before 14,000 people in the Heineken League First Divison on Saturday. Cardiff have Mark Ring, the former Wales centre, fit after a shoulder injury and, days before the Varsity match, prefer Andrew Moore (ex-Oxford) to Andrew Booth (ex-Cambridge) at scrum-half.

Swansea have a problem at loose-head prop caused by the South-West's first call on Chris Clark against the North at Kirkstall in the English Divisional Championship, and Oxford University's claim on Ian Buckett for Twickenham next Tuesday. Which creates a likely opportunity for Andrew Metcalfe, a promising newcomer from Blaina, home of the Swansea coach, Mike Ruddock.

The Wales squad lock John Wakeford, who won two caps in 1988, will not play again this season. Wakeford has had to have a knee operation after tearing ligaments playing for South Wales Police at Neath last Saturday.

Gary French, the Liverpool St Helens hooker, wins his first Lancashire cap against Northumberland on Saturday. The other newcomers are the Sale centre, Gareth Stocks, and the Waterloo scrum-half, Chris Saverimutto. Bristol's Andy Blackmore has replaced Gloucester's David Sims in the South-West team to play the North at Headingley.