Passionate Hogg wanted captain’s role, says Townsend

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has been explaining his reasons for selecting the squad chosen for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations campaign – and his decision to promote Stuart Hogg to captain.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 1:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 1:01 pm
Stuart Hogg (archive image by Michael Gillen)

Full back Hogg, a favourite at home club Hawick before his step up to the professional ranks, was elevated to skipper in place of Stuart McInally when ex-Gala ace Townsend announced the 38-man squad earlier today (Wednesday).

The two-time championship player of the tournament (2016 and 2017) and British & Irish Lion is the most experienced player in the line-up, starting 71 of his 72 caps to date.

Townsend explained: “Stuart is very passionate about playing for Scotland and he’s determined to do all he can to improve Scotland.

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Gregor Townsend (archive image by Michael Gillen)

“He really cares about playing for his country, what the jersey represents and also getting the best out of his teammates.

“He’s a really intelligent rugby player who’s is learning and improving with every season. He’s very good at bringing others into the game and building relationships with those around him.

“He’s very well respected by our coaching and playing group but that isn’t based on the accolades he’s earned. It’s more about what he does every day at training.

“He brings energy, is very accurate, he stays out to longer to work on his game and more often than not he’s the loudest player on the field, guiding or congratulating his teammates.

“He really wanted to take on the honour and responsibility of being captain, which was a huge positive. And – having heard his plans for how he would work as a captain and work to bring the best out of others, while being able to focus on his own game – this meant it became a relatively straightforward decision.

Townsend also told Scottish Rugby’s website: “We will have a strong group of leaders around him that can help but it’s a new squad and a new era, and Stuart has an opportunity to help this group reach its potential.”

As well as Borders players Darcy Graham (ex-Hawick) and Jamie Bhatti (ex-Melrose) , the squad includes six uncapped players – four forwards and two backs.

Townsend added: “We’ve put a bigger emphasis on form as a guide for our selection, with those picked backed to go out and grab their opportunity.

“A number of young players have broken through at their clubs, while the bulk of the squad (23/31) from Japan has been reselected, based on some strong individual performances and huge effort throughout our World Cup camp.

“We’re on to our next campaign now and it’s going to be very tough, given the competition we face. Ireland have only lost one championship game at home in the last five years, and England were in great form in Japan.

“It’s a great focus for everyone when you’ve got Ireland away and England at home for your first two games. The focus has to be on the future and how we find a way to win those games.”

“There are some real quality players who have missed out on selection, either through injury or the form of others in the group and I’m sure they’ll continue to knock hard on the squad selection door throughout the Six Nations period.

“It’s a positive that we’ve depth in the number of positions and more players available to play than we did this time last season, so let’s hope that continues over the duration of the tournament.”