Rugby Union: Hastings receives Carling's support

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The Independent Online
WILL CARLING was the first person on the telephone to Gavin Hastings yesterday morning, an important gesture of magnanimity and solidarity by the losing contender for the Lions captaincy. In the end this was a battle Hastings handsomely won, writes Steve Bale.

As Hastings will have twice as many Englishmen as Scots to command, he may need Carling's assistance in blending different nationalities into a homogeneous whole. He can now take it for granted. 'I'm delighted just to have been selected and more than happy to contribute whatever I can,' Carling said.

For Hastings, yesterday's team announcement was the moment national rivalry was set aside. 'I see my task as being to relate to the players and press and to have the skills on the field and the calmness to react in pressure situations,' he said.

'This will be the most pressurised Lions tour ever and what's needed is someone who will retain composure. I have confidence in my ability to deal with that. It should help that I know New Zealand well. I've had only four games as Scotland captain in which to be judged but what I really had in my favour was working over a longer period with Ian McGeechan.'

McGeechan, who will be bowing out after coaching the Lions on tour, first saw Hastings leading Scottish Schools to a rare win over England Schools 13 years ago.

'He tended to be a bit reckless,' McGeechan said. 'The great thing is how he's worked on his game. He's always been very confident in his own abilities, always believing he'll win every game. I'm sure that will rub off.'

Hastings remains a buccaneering figure - 6ft 2in and 14 1/2 st - who has never allowed adversity to get him down. In 1986 at Murrayfield his first act in international rugby was to kick off straight into touch against France, who immediately scored a try, but retorted with six penalties which won the match 18-17.

No British Isles international team have beaten New Zealand since Phil Bennett's Lions won the second Test in 1977. But Hastings knows the uncommon winning sensation from the world team who outplayed the All Blacks a year ago. 'Now,' he said, 'I'm looking forward to leading the Lions to victory.'