Hastings relishes Lions showdown

Lions legend Gavin Hastings reckons the RBS 6 Nations clash between Scotland and Wales will see two of the world's deadliest marksmen go boot-to-boot. [more]

Hastings relishes Lions showdown

Lions legend Gavin Hastings reckons the RBS 6 Nations clash between Scotland and Wales will see two of the world’s deadliest marksmen go boot-to-boot.

Greig Laidlaw has been prolific in front of the posts and boasts the most accurate strike-rate in the Championship.

But Wales ace Leigh Halfpenny has been equally imperious from the tee and has collected two consecutive man-of-the-match awards.

The duo are front-runners to win a place on the Lions tour of Australia and Hastings, who scored 733 points in a 67 cap Test career, has sung their praises.

“The quality of goal-kicking we see these days in international rugby is quite astonishing,” said Hastings.

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“Last weekend was a great advert for goal-kicking in the Six Nations.

“Leigh Halfpenny and Greig Laidlaw have proved they are two of the best in the world.

“It is no exaggeration to say they are as good as anyone on the planet at the moment.

“They are different type of kickers because while Halfpenny has a greater range, Greig does not seem to miss from inside 35 metres.

“Greig has picked up from where Chris Paterson left off for Scotland and has taken it on almost another level.

“He has just become someone who hardly misses a kick and he shows such confidence in his ability.

“That is a great asset in any side and when you don’t have that in your team you can see the difference.

“A reliable kicker gives your side a huge amount of confidence and there is no doubt that Ireland missed that at Murrayfield last weekend with Jonny Sexton being injured.”

Halfpenny has already toured once with the Lions and is leading the charge to earn a second call-up.

He is set to go up against on fire Scot Stuart Hogg, who has also been tipped for a place on the plan Down Under.

The Glasgow Warriors full-back has taken the Championship by storm but Hastings, himself a two-tour Lion, reckons the Welsh star is edging the contest.

“I am a big fan of Leigh Halfpenny and think he is an excellent full-back,” said Hastings.

“Hogg could do a lot worse than try and emulate his game.

“Halfpenny is an absolute shoo-in for the Lions, while Hogg is one of the guys who if he has another couple of promising games, he will be on the plane as well.

“People have to remember that Hogg is still young but he does epitomise the new found confidence in the Scottish team.

“The tries he scored against England and Italy were spectacular and showed he has huge pace, which is a wonderful advantage in international sport.

“He has potential and he just needs to keep doing the basics well.

“He is playing with a lot of confidence and has been involved in a successful Glasgow side which is rubbing off on him.”

The competition at full-back, where Rob Kearney, Alex Goode, Mike Brown, Lee Byrne and Ben Foden are also in the mix, is just one position that will give Warren Gatland a selection head-ache.

And Hastings reckons the final two rounds of the Championship will prove decisive in who makes the trip to Oz.

“A lot can happen in the two remaining games and Warren Gatland will be keen to try and offer an opportunity to a couple of players who have shown potential through the tournament,” added Hastings.

“The players know though first and foremost you need to perform for your international side.

“If you do that to a high standard then Lions selection will take care of itself.

“I am not convinced Gatland is convinced he has 50 players ready and he is now wondering how he is going to leave anyone out.

“I would like to see players continuing to perform well over the next two matches so Gatland feels has a glut of people to choose from.

“The standard has been ok so far in the Six Nations but there will be a lot of players like Sam Warburton and Jonathan Sexton who will be disappointed they have not a chance to play more for different reasons.

“There is still a lot to play for and I don’t think Gatland will pick players on reputation because he wants to see people fit and performing well.

“So there will be some disappointed guys in April because they have not played enough rugby. There is still a great opportunity in this final two weeks for the players and there will be a lot riding on their performances.”

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