Warren Gatland has told his players to turn up the heat on Scotland’s rookie outside half Adam Hastings when he makes his debut against Wales in the Cardiff cauldron this weekend.
While the young Glasgow Warriors No 10 will be hoping to turn back the family clocks 28 years and following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, Gavin, in winning in the Welsh capital, Gatland is planning to make life as difficult as possible for him.
Welsh rugby got a glimpse of Hasting’s talent when he picked up the man of the match award in Glasgow’s Heineken Champions Cup win over Cardiff Blues last month and now he has been given the chance to shine on an even bigger stage at the Principality Stadium.
“Adam Hastings has had some international experience at No 10, but there will be some pressure on him to play in Cardiff. We have got to make sure we put as much pressure on him as we possibly can,” admitted Gatland.
“There is no doubt he is a quality player with a pretty good pedigree. I’m sure he has had plenty of advice about handling the pressure.
“But if a player is playing at the next level up in terms of physicality and intensity, we need to bring that to make it difficult for him. I think it is going to be a tough, physical encounter.”
Gatland has given Gareth Anscombe first shot at wearing the Welsh No 10 shirt this weekend with Dan Biggar unavailable and Rhys Patchell still ruled out with a head knock. He has also given sevens specialist Luke Morgan a first cap on the wing after a mere eight games of professional rugby with the Ospreys.
“We have to bring the right sort of physicality for a Test match against a Tier One nation. Hearing the stuff that’s coming out of their camp they are talking about the fact that they got their preparation wrong the last time we met,” added Gatland.
“It wasn’t about a good Wales performance, it was about how poorly they had prepared. So, that kind of puts things in perspective for us to make sure we are mentally on our game.
“It will be a proper Test on Saturday, I can guarantee that. We are not going out there to play festival rugby – we want to play attractive rugby but smart and winning rugby.”
The Wales head coach, coming into his final year in charge before he heads back home to New Zealand after a 10 year stint, believes the Scots will have a point to prove after they were humiliated in the Welsh capital last season after arriving as firm favourites. Gatland believes That 34-7 defeat in the Six Nations will be a huge motivating factor for them on their return.
“We were up 14-0 early in that game and that probably changed their mindset. They probably started throwing the ball around more than they would have done,” observed Gatland.
“They didn’t stay in the arm wrestle as long as they would have liked and didn’t kick as much as they might have done. So, I’d presume the message from Gregor Townsend will be to stay in the arm wrestle as long as they can with us this time to pressurise us.
“Then they’ll look to take their opportunities that way. That’s why I’m expecting the game to be so physical this weekend.
“I think the players who were involved last year will be disappointed with the result and the performance. A lot of them will be wanting to rectify that.”