Gavin Hastings backs Finn Russell for pivotal role on Lions Tour

Gavin Hastings captained the British & Irish Lions on their 1993 Tour
Gavin Hastings captained the British & Irish Lions on their 1993 Tour

By Joe Harvey

Gavin Hastings is backing Scotland fly-half Finn Russell to play a pivotal role in next year's British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia.

A three-time Lion, former Scotland full-back Hastings captained the world’s most famous tourists on their 1993 trip to New Zealand and believes countryman Russell can make a big impression Down Under when the Lions play their first match in front of fans for eight years.

Russell has been enjoying a stellar first season with Gallagher Premiership side Bath Rugby and pulled the strings for Scotland during this year's Six Nations and Hastings believed that the playmaker has all the attributes to succeed in the famous red jersey.

“I think Finn Russell’s skillset, he can really make things happen,” said Hastings.

“Maybe before coming to Bath, people would have thought he was okay, but sometimes in a Scotland shirt you don’t see the best of him because there is limited time training and Scotland are sometimes struggling.

“It is very difficult wen you have got back foot ball just to be creative the whole time.

“You could ask most Bath supporters what Finn has brought to this Bath team, and they would say he has given confidence to the players around him and brought the best out of them.

“That is a great sign of a player. I have always admired him. He has got a great skillset.

“I would love Finn to have an opportunity and hopefully he will get that opportunity on the Lions tour.”

Hastings was speaking at Howden’s Big Rugby Day Out at Oxford University Rugby Club, where youth players from seven Lions Origin Clubs took part in a festival of rugby that included training sessions with British & Irish Lions legend Jason Robinson.

There are 711 Lions Origins Clubs, those that have played a role in the career of a Lion, with new principal partner of the British & Irish Lions Howden set to present each with a commemorative plaque as part of its commitment to the grassroots game.

And Hastings hailed the vital role community clubs play in laying the foundations for the next generation of British & Irish Lions.

He added: “As a former Lion myself, some people just imagine that Lions play for the Lions and nobody else but community is very much a the heart of rugby and these four nations of ours, it’s where we all learned to play rugby.

“Mini rugby has a massive part to play. Who know how many future Lions players are out on the pitch today?

“My brother Scott and I were lucky enough to go on two Lions tours and even now we have that bond of having represented our club. I am proud to be a Watsonian and a Lions player that has come from there.

“The values of rugby, teamwork and looking out for one another, they are lessons for life that you learn by playing rugby.

“Rugby has given me so many lessons and allowed me to progress in other areas of my own life. The subliminal skills and the great coaching they are getting, they will hopefully remember it for the rest of their life.”

As part of their partnership with The British & Irish Lions, Howden will be supporting the grassroots game