Borderer Stuart Hogg tells of pride at captaining British and Irish Lions for second time and ‘bricking it’ ahead of test selection
Borderer Stuart Hogg has told of his pride at getting to skipper the British and Irish Lions twice this tour despite having to take a week out in self-isolation because of coronavirus rules.
“The amount of quality and experience that is going around this squad and to have been named captain, especially after the last couple of weeks I’d had at my club, it’s just a huge boost to my confidence and I absolutely loved it,” the former Hawick star, dropped by his current club, Exeter Chiefs, for the final two games of last season, told the BBC’s rugby union weekly podcast on Tuesday.
“I loved the challenges that came with it. I loved the opportunity to lead an unbelievable squad.
“I enjoyed the experience and I loved the opportunity, and I was very grateful to be given another opportunity last week.
“I’m never going to be one that screams and shouts, and I like to lead by the way that I play.
“At times I got it right, and at times it didn't quite go to plan, but I loved the opportunity and I'm very happy.”
Hogg, 29, said he’d had no idea head coach Warren Gatland was going to name him as captain for the tourists’ first game in South Africa, a 56-14 win against the Sigma Lions on Saturday, July 3, until it was announced at a team meeting.
“Gats tried to catch me before the meeting to tell me I was going to be leading the team, but he couldn’t quite get it in on time, then he announced it and I wasn’t sure if I was hearing it right,” recalled Hogg, since given a second stint as captain for the multinational side’s 49-3 victory against DHL Stormers in Cape Town last Saturday, July 17.
Hogg and fellow Borderer Rory Sutherland were due to find out today, July 20, if they’ll be in the Lions’ team for their first test against South Africa this coming Saturday, July 24, but that selection isn’t scheduled to be made public until Thursday, July 22.
“My mind has really focused on being back here and having an opportunity to be involved in a test match,” said Hogg.
“If I get the opportunity at the weekend, that’s absolutely brilliant, but if not, it’s not been through lack of trying. It’s not been through any fault of my own, but I’m absolutely bricking it about the selection this afternoon.
“It's a nervy old time, but that is why we are all here,” admitted Hogg.
“We are all here for the same purpose, to be involved in a successful tour, and these are the games that count.
“I’ve been told there are 80-odd people on this tour and everybody has a role within this team.
“There will be some boys that are disappointed, but we will all try to make sure the team will be successful on Saturday.”
Whether or not he gets the thumb’s-up from Gatland this week, the former Hawick High School student says he’s enjoying the tour so far.
“It’s been class, other than the dreaded few days I had to stay in isolation,” he said.
“It’s been brilliant.
“The boys have worked incredibly hard on the field. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company off it. It’s a great group of boys all here for the same purpose, the same goal, and it’s been fun, a lot of fun.
“It’s good to be back. It’s good to be amongst the boys and building into what’s going to be an unbelievable few weeks for us.”
The Scotland captain says he’s especially keen to break into the test team after the disappointment of being sent home early from the Lions’ 2017 tour of New Zealand with a fractured eye socket following a collision with team-mate Conor Murray ahead of the test series.
“It still hurt for 18 to 24 months after,” he said
“I tried to get involved and play again, but I just felt like any time I would get fit I would pick up another injury.
“I had never been in that situation before and the love of the game had gone, which all started from the fractured eye socket and missing out on those massive games.
“Going into that tour, I was probably playing some of the best rugby I had played.
“I felt at the time if there was ever an opportunity for a test match, that was it.”
This Lions tour is Hogg’s third after playing two provincial games in New Zealand in 2017 and five in Australia in 2013, besides the two games he’s featured in this time round.
It’s fellow ex-Hawick player Sutherland’s first tour, and the 28-year-old started the Lions’ 28-10 warm-up win against Japan in Edinburgh on Saturday, June 26; came off the bench 51 minutes into their 54-7 defeat of Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday, July 7; featured in the starting XV against the same opposition in Pretoria on Saturday, July 12, playing for 55 minutes of that 71-31 victory; and, playing alongside Hogg in the Lions’ red for the first time, started at the weekend and got 48 minutes’ game-time.
To hear this week’s podcast, go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09pwjsw