Hastings praises Lions coach

Former Lions skipper Gavin Hastings believes the tourists will have the perfect man in charge when they travel to South Africa later this summer. [more]

Hastings praises Lions coach

Former Lions skipper Gavin Hastings believes the tourists will have the perfect man in charge when they travel to South Africa later this summer.

Hastings, who played under Ian McGeechan as a Lion in 1989 and 1993, has no doubt that his fellow Scot can lead the Lions to success against the Springboks.

“There is no question that Ian is the man for the job,” said Hastings, who is currently working as an ambassador for the Lions’ principal sponsor, HSBC.

“This will be undoubtedly the last time that Ian McGeechan will ever be involved in a coaching capacity with the Lions and nothing would give him greater pleasure than for him to repeat his success, both as a player in ’74 and then in ’97 as a coach.”

Hastings himself knows what it is like to taste glory with the Lions, having started all three Tests against the Wallabies on the triumphant tour of Australia 20 years ago. 

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The 47-year-old’s experience as captain of the Lions in New Zealand four years later also means he has a real understanding of what is required to make a Lions squad become far more than just a collection of players – something he explains will be high on McGeechan’s Lions agenda.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Ian McGeechan will have planned it all. Therefore, over the Six Nations he will be looking for players that he believes will be good tourists, and people who will be very, very determined to put his plan into operation.

“He is steeped in Lions history and tradition and for me he would be as well versed as anyone in what the unique qualities of being a Lion demand, and what he will be looking for in terms of his team and the way he believes they must play in order to be successful.”

In addition to emphasising the role that McGeechan can play in toppling the world champions in four months time, Hastings has little doubt that the selection of the tour skipper will also have a significant impact on whether the Lions succeed or fail in South Africa.

The ex-London Scottish full back, who retired from international rugby as his country’s leading points scorer, was selected ahead of England’s Will Carling as Lions captain 16 years ago. 

Fast forward to 2009 and Hastings believes the current Six Nations will play a big role in determining who gets the nod this time around.

"I think the team that does the best in the Six Nations (will provide the Lions captain) – clearly if a team goes on and wins the Grand Slam, if it’s Ireland or Wales, which would appear to be the two obvious candidates – then I think the captain of that team would be a shoe-in for the Lions.

"Having said that, if the games are a lot closer, and everyone suffers one or two defeats and are bunched together, then I think, whoever is perhaps a shoe-in for the Test team, has to be an important qualification as well.

"You can’t have any doubt over the player actually making the test side – he has to be an absolute given in that scenario.”

Whoever does earn the right to lead the 2009 Lions, Hastings has no doubt that they will have been chosen not just for their abilities on the field but also for their ability to inspire others at all times on what will be a hugely-demanding tour. 

"I think there is still a big role for the captain to play,” added Hastings.

“First and foremost the captain has to be a real person that everybody looks up to and respects – you will undoubtedly need that.”

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