Updated: Club boss defends Scotland rugby captain Stuart Hogg over rumpus about bar trip in breach of team rules

Scotland rugby captain Stuart Hogg has been defended by club boss Rob Baxter over the breach of squad rules that led to him and five team-mates including fellow Borderer Darcy Graham being disciplined ahead of their final Six Nations match.

By Darin Hutson
Friday, 25th March 2022, 11:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 2:39 pm
Hawick's Stuart Hogg during Scotland's Six Nations match against Ireland on Saturday, March 19, in Dublin (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Hawick's Stuart Hogg during Scotland's Six Nations match against Ireland on Saturday, March 19, in Dublin (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Though possibly the most trouble any Borderers have got themselves into with the Scottish Rugby Union over a night out in Edinburgh since Kelso’s John Jeffrey was hit with a six-month ban from the sport in 1988, Exeter Chiefs head coach Baxter insists the players’ trip out to a bar in the capital was more of a minor misunderstanding than a wilful flouting of protocols.

Hawick’s Hogg, 29, and Graham, 24, popped out for a drink – accompanied by Ali Price, Sam Johnson, Finn Russell and Sione Tuipulotu – in the city the day after returning home from their 33-22 victory against Italy in Rome on Saturday, March 12, leading to in-house disciplinary proceedings.

Hogg and fellow backs Price, Graham and Johnson all kept their starting line-up places for the Scots’ 26-5 defeat by Ireland in Dublin a week later, though fly-half Russell was relegated to the replacements’ bench and centre Tuipulotu was dropped altogether.

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Stuart Hogg after Scotland's Six Nations defeat by Ireland on Saturday, March 19 (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Hogg and national team coach Gregor Townsend were unwilling to discuss the matter further during their press conference after their last match of this year’s Six Nations other than to confirm that the players had apologised and been disciplined and Baxter, speaking ahead of fourth-placed Exeter's home game against English Premiership table-toppers Leicester Tigers on Sunday, feels that was fair enough as extra explanation was unnecessary.

“I think people are trying to make out there has been a clear breach of team rules – there's not been,” the 51-year-old told the BBC.

“I think there was a little bit of ambiguity over what was supposed to happen when he got back to the hotel. That ambiguity was cleared up with a phone call asking the guys to come back.

“It was one of those things – sometimes it can happen – but it all got cleared up very quickly, almost within minutes of the incident.

“It’s not like anyone’s gone out and got drunk and got into a fight or come back at six o’clock in the morning or missed training, so I can probably understand why the Scottish people involved are a little frustrated that this has been a big issue, because it clearly hasn't been.”

Former Borders rugby star Craig Chalmers disagrees, however, believing that Hogg’s two-year stint as captain is now all but over.

“I think he's going to find it very hard to hold on to the captaincy,” the Galashiels-born 53-year-old, capped 60 times for his country between 1989 and 1999, told BBC Scotland.

“I don’t think he should have been given it in the first place. Full-back’s not a great place to captain from because you’ve got to be in amongst it, round about the referee, asking questions, finding stuff out.

“I think he will relinquish it.”

Ex-Melrose and Border Reivers fly-half Chalmers believes either Jamie Ritchie or Hamish Watson would be the best bet to take over if Hogg stands down.

“We’ve just got to see who takes over,” he said.

“What leaders are there? Are there enough leaders in that team? Hamish Watson maybe. Jamie Ritchie, for me, is the guy that’s going to be there long term, but will he be fit for the tour to Argentina in the summer? I’m not too sure, but, yes, I think there will be a change.”

Hogg has captained Scotland 22 times since taking over from Jedburgh’s Greig Laidlaw following his international retirement in December 2019.

That puts the Borderer third on the all-time list for most appearances as skipper, behind Laidlaw, 36, on 40 and David Sole on 25.

Hogg’s also top of the list for most tries scored for Scotland with 25, ahead of Ian Smith and Hawick’s Tony Stanger with 24 and Galashiels’ Chris Paterson with 22.

He’s his country’s fourth-most-capped player ever too, with 93, behind Kelso’s Ross Ford on 110, Paterson on 109 and Sean Lamont on 105.