The battle of Hastings

Gavin Hastings has swapped his rugby boots for American football shoulder pads after a year out of

the international sporting spotlight.

As he returns to Murrayfield with the Scottish Claymores. he tells Alan Morrison it hasn‘t been easy.

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he emotional scenes that marked Gavin Hastings‘s final game as Scottish teatn captain at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa last summer sparked desperate hopes that this national hero would hold on and retire in style on home tttrf. That wasn‘t to be. so it‘ll be sliglttly surreal when the same man wearing the same number l5 pulls on a different blue shirt and runs back onto the S’ltit‘rayfield pitch. flanked by pom-pom swinging cheerleaders. to the cry of ‘Go. (‘laymores. go!'.

In their second year as part of the six team American Football World League. the Scottish (.‘laymores have certainly pulled off a coup in signing the trusty boot of Hastings as kicker. His contribution to the (‘laymores’

Monarchs in the first game of the season has already proved that. But whatever the sense of his signing -—

and there‘s bound

to be a few thousand tnore turn

out to cheer a team with Hastings on board the player himself had no illusions about the

difficult transition that lay before him. training camp in Atlanta last month.‘ he says. taking a break from preparations for the first game of the season. ‘it took me the fttll two weeks to feel comfortable about what I was doing. There‘s no doubt the kicking technique is dramatically different. When you're kicking a rugby ball. you‘ve got all the time in the world: here. you‘ve got to get the ball away within a maximum of 1.3 seconds from the time the ball is snapped back to the holder and you actually kicking it.‘ He refrains from adding that. if he doesn’t manage this in

pumped-up muscle stomping on his head as the opposition try their best to trash the team celebrity. But for all his achievements on the rugby field with Scotland and the British Lions. Hastings is no stranger to the world of American football. His company. Hastings International Ltd. is contracted as marketing consultants to the Claymores. and he has taken every chance available to catch a game when in

‘You maybe only get one opportunity in life to do something like this and, it I was serious about 24-21 victory over the London daing it! it had to be this year. I’m a competitor, the that’s for sure, and this commercial representsa tremendous national challenge for me.’

time. he’s likely to have a ton of


America. especially if it has involved his beloved Denver Broncos.

In fact. it was at the Broncos stadium in Colorado that he first tested his kicking technique at an informal session back in January. The Claymores kept tip their interest and persuaded him to join the squad at the Atlanta training camp a couple of months later. Rumours reached Scotland that Hastings wasn‘t as confident with his new role as he might be. and he awaited the posting of the final squad with as much baited breath as his team-mates.

‘You maybe only get one opportunity in life to do something like this and. if] was serious about doing it. it had to be this year.‘ Hastings says. ‘l‘m a competitor. that’s for sure. and this represents a tremendous challenge for me. It probably would have been easier for me to continue playing international rugby rather than learn the intricacies of a new game. but this gives me an opportunity to do something that not many people in Scotland have ever attempted.‘

Indeed. there are only a handful of Scots (and a couple of other Europeans) in the Scottish team. But that doesn't mean the vast majority of Americans in Claymores colours some of whom played last season and are eager to come back for more aren’t aware of

passion and gritty determination that marks our sporting teams.

Particularly when the opening game was a ‘Scotland v England' affair. with them lopping the crowns off the London Monarchs (complete with super-heavy ex-NFL superstar William “The Fridge’ Perry).

‘These guys know a bit about Scotland.‘ says Hastings. smiling. ‘They‘ve seen Brave/wart. and they know we were the guys in kilts. I suppose even the name “Clzty'tn()res“ helps it‘s all part of this macho thing. and the guys respond to that pretty well.‘

These warriors are. of course. decked out in helmets and pads. but although he has suffered the flesh-against-flesh contact of the rugby tackle. Hastings doesn’t have any less respect for those inside an American football uniform: 'If it gives them an extra degree of comfort. well. they‘re still going in there and putting their bodies on the line. I wouldn‘t call them cissies.’ (In an aside. Hastings‘s fellow Claymores kicker Paul McCallum says he reckons most of the players wouldn’t go up against the Scot one- on-one if they didn’t have the padding for protection).

‘l‘ll always have a deep-rooted love of rugby. and I don‘t think I‘ll ever have it to the same extent for American football.‘ Hastings concludes. ‘That doesn't mean to say I don't respect what the game is about but. as far as I'm concerned. the past is the past. this is the present. and the future's tomorrow.’

In the Claymores-Monarchs game last week.

Hastings silenced his critics and calmed his own nerves by slotting home each of his extra point kicks after a trio of touchdowns including a nail-biting score leveller with under two minutes to go. The shoe fits. and Gavin Hastings is wearing it. The Scottish Clay/notes play tlte Barcelona Dragons on Sunday 2 I and the Amsterdam Admirals on Sunday 28 April at Mlll‘l'atfield. lz'dinlno'gh. Kick-off is at 3pm, with [ire-game entertainment starting at noon.

The List l9 Apr-2 May l99615