JONES GATLAND; Scotland Legend Gavin Hastings on Rugby's Answer to Jose and FergieThere's a Bit of Mourinho about Him - but Would He Have Got the England Job If Japan Hadn't Pulled off That Shock victory?He's the Biggest Wind-Up Merchant There Is, Laughing His Head off Behind the Mask - but He's the Closest We Have to Alex Ferguson

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 31, 2016 | Go to article overview

JONES GATLAND; Scotland Legend Gavin Hastings on Rugby's Answer to Jose and FergieThere's a Bit of Mourinho about Him - but Would He Have Got the England Job If Japan Hadn't Pulled off That Shock victory?He's the Biggest Wind-Up Merchant There Is, Laughing His Head off Behind the Mask - but He's the Closest We Have to Alex Ferguson


Byline: JONATHAN McEVOY EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

GAVIN HASTINGS is under orders from his son to bring eggs and milk back home with him. He might be a former Lions captain, but part of Hastings' duties this morning is to drive Adam, a talented fly-half with Bath, to a Scotland Under 20s meeting at 10.30am prompt.

It is a week before the start of the RBS Six Nations and the winds of Storm Gertrude are whistling menacingly through Edinburgh's stone streets. Hastings sips a coffee in the relative peace of a little cafe only a five-minute ride from gale-lashed Murrayfield and considers the rugby feast that lies ahead.

First up is the Calcutta Cup, a trophy fashioned by Indian craftsmen from melted silver rupees and first fought over between Scotland and England in March 1879. Much sporting history, not to mention some bad blood, is crammed into the story.

Hastings, captain of Scotland for 20 of his 61 caps as an outstanding full-back, played his part in the folklore by, among other triumphs, winning the Grand Slam in the most fabled Calcutta Cup instalment of them all, in 1990.

But it will all be new for Eddie Jones, the smiling Australian taskmaster who was recently appointed as England head coach after the country's acute World Cup embarrassment of being eliminated in the group stages under Stuart Lancaster.

Only scored Hastings' in Jonny 'The question I ask is this,' says Hastings. 'Would Eddie Jones have got the England job had Japan not beaten South Africa? Would his stock have been as high? You would have thought not. That said, you have got to say that was an extraordinary game. It was a wonderful result for world rugby.

'I thought Lancaster was a bit like Kevin Keegan. He didn't know how to take England to the next level. He did a brilliant job early on of bringing the spirit back. That had to be done. But I don't think he was a good enough coach to move them on. He struggled. And when he lost Jonathan Joseph, they panicked.

'They revamped the whole backline against Wales because of one injury. Suddenly they were not picking George Ford at stand-off. It changed the way they had been playing for months.

'Now, with Eddie's arrival, there is a huge amount of optimism. But actually, in a way, England's performance in the World Cup was not all that bad. They didn't get out of the group, no, but they would have done if they had kicked at goal against Wales -- and anyone with half a brain knows that it was crying out for kick at goal, because they only needed to draw.

'If England had got through to the quarter-finals they could then have played like Scotland, who did magnificently against Australia and almost won what would without question have been our greatest victory of all time.' Jones's twinkle-eyed contribution to the pre-Six Nations hostilities has been to say that Scotland 'carry the pressure of favourites', having progressed further in the World Cup. 'Do you honestly think anyone is taking him seriously?' asks Hastings. 'There aren't many Mourinhos in rugby and perhaps Eddie has a bit of that. But the biggest wind-up merchant is [Wales coach] Warren Gatland. He is the closest to Alex Ferguson that we have. He winds people up, and to hell with the consequences. He says it deadpan, but is laughing his head off behind the mask.' By Hasting's estimation Wales, who have won the Grand Slam the last two times the Six Nations followed World Cups, are strong contenders. A revitalised France, who were 'just awful' in the autumn, are 'capable of a strong challenge'. For England it may be 'too soon'.

Hastings, however, is cautious about Scotland's chances on Saturday. History warns him to be so. In all his career he beat England only twice, in 1986, when, as a greenhorn, he kicked eight out of eight, and in 1990. That latter occasion gave rise to an absorbing book, Tom English's The Grudge, which drew together the strands of cross-border history. …

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JONES GATLAND; Scotland Legend Gavin Hastings on Rugby's Answer to Jose and FergieThere's a Bit of Mourinho about Him - but Would He Have Got the England Job If Japan Hadn't Pulled off That Shock victory?He's the Biggest Wind-Up Merchant There Is, Laughing His Head off Behind the Mask - but He's the Closest We Have to Alex Ferguson
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