There was joy in Hawick this week after local rugby star Stuart Hogg was named in the British & Irish Lions squad to tour Australia this summer.
Hogg is one of only three Scottish players included in head coach Warren Gatland’s 37-strong tour party – the others being his Glasgow Warriors team-mate Sean Maitland and Sale Sharks lock Richie Gray.
Hogg joins Lions veterans Leigh Halfpenny of Wales and Ireland’s Rob Kearney as the squad’s full backs.
Warriors coach Gregor Townsend had moved Tuesday’s training session so his players could watch the broadcast of tour manager Andy Irvine announcing the names of the lucky players.
“But Stuart didn’t come in – he stayed outside practising kicking,” Townsend told us. “But he had his phone with him and all you heard was this scream of joy from the pitch when his name was read out.”
Speaking to The Southern, Hogg, 20, found it difficult to describe his emotions.
“I’m still lost for words, to be honest. It’s the ultimate dream come true. When you’re growing up as a kid, all you want to do is play rugby at the highest level and it doesn’t get much higher than this.”
Hogg admitted he “screamed like a little girl” when he heard Irvine say his name.
“With all the pressure over the last few months, and talk of being a Lion, it is unbelievable it’s finally happened.”
“Now it’s about working towards getting a starting jersey – the hard work begins here.”
And Hogg wasn’t the only one in his family lost for words over his Lions call-up – dad John was also gobsmacked.
“My dad was the first person I called and even he was lost for words. Anyone who knows my dad will tell you that doesn’t happen very often!”
Townsend believes Hogg has the potential to be one of the successes of the tour, which starts on June 1.
“Being a Lion is a fantastic experience and I feel Stuart could do really well in Australia,” Townsend told The Southern.
“But now the hard work starts because it’s no longer about making the squad – it’s about making the test team.”
Hawick president Rory Bannerman says all at the Mansfield Park club are delighted. “It’s all the more remarkable because it has been done by one of the most humble and affable people you could meet,” he added.
“Stuart is a credit, not just to himself, but to his family and this rugby club.”
Provost Smith personally congratulated Hogg in Hawick on Tuesday evening.
“It’s a well-deserved honour and the town is extremely proud of Stuart,” he said. “All we want to see now is him and those famous yellow-soled boots of his scoring some tries against the Wallabies.”