Exeter Chiefs flanker Sam Skinner has been one of the most unfortunate victims of Scotland’s injury crisis during the Six Nations – but Gavin Hastings expects him to bounce back stronger.
Skinner limped out of Scotland’s opening round clash against Italy after just 14 minutes of his Six Nations debut, with an ankle injury ruling him out of the rest of the Championship.
The 24-year-old was the first to join a long list of Scottish absentees during this campaign, with John Barclay, Ryan Wilson, Huw Jones, Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn also picking up injuries.
And while Scotland legend Hastings feels for Skinner after his Championship ended prematurely, he is confident the back-rower can play an important role for Gregor Townsend going forwards.
“Sam was unfortunate, it’s tough on him, but there’s no hiding place,” said Hastings, speaking on behalf of Land Rover. “You can’t just say go easy on us because we’ve got lots of injuries.
“That’s clearly never going to happen and to be fair Gregor has never used that as an excuse, but we just have to look forward to the World Cup now and hopefully Sam will get his chance then.
“There are two matches that are going to be mega, although all four Pool matches are going to be huge. Scotland have just got to learn from all their mistakes.
“We need to make sure we move on from this Championship, but the one positive is we’ve been able to introduce a lot of young guys into the squad.
“They’ve all done well and Darcy Graham last week had a terrific game, Jamie Ritchie has been outstanding for Scotland and there are one of two others who have done well as well.”
Many tipped Scotland to be outside contenders ahead of the Championship, a view that appeared to be backed up by an impressive 33-20 victory against Italy in the opening round.
But since then Townsend’s side have struggled as injuries have taken their toll, with Scotland losing their last three games in the Championship to Ireland, France and Wales.
They became the latest side to suffer defeat at the hands of Grand Slam-chasing Wales in Edinburgh last weekend as Warren Gatland’s men made it four from four with an 18-11 victory.
The hosts gave Wales a scare in the second half as they piled on the pressure, though, and they even threatened to cause an upset after Darcy Graham’s try closed the gap to four points.
But Hastings, who made 61 appearances for Scotland and is widely considered one of the country’s greatest players, was left frustrated with their decision making at times after the restart.
“Scotland have certainly not made the right decisions at the right time during this Championship, you saw against Wales last weekend when they squandered a few kickable penalties,” he said.
“I just could not understand the rationale for doing so and that’s been a slight disappointment and frustration for me and I think Gregor said that it was decision-making on the field.
“The thought was that they might be able to score from the lineout. I watched the game and they were on top of Wales and they were pounding the line strongly.
“Wales were defensively very good though and we weren’t able to break them down, but that was the frustration from me and amongst many hundreds of Scottish supporters.”
Gavin Hastings is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover shares and understands the values of rugby. @LandRoverRugby