Stuart Hogg always puts the Scotland team first even if he’s on the cusp of one of his country’s longest-established records.
After two scores against South Africa in a losing cause last week, Hogg drew level with the legendary Ian Smith and Tony Stanger on the Scottish record mark of 24 tries in tests.
Equalling Smith and Stanger
Thread: Tomorrow, if Stuart Hogg scores his 25th try for Scotland against Japan he will pass the last of the legendary Ian Smith's great scoring records. Which makes me sad, if nobody else.
— Steve Scott (@C_SScott) November 19, 2021
Smith, the great “Flying Scotsman”, set the mark as far back as 1933. Stanger, the hero of the 1990 Grand Slam team, equalled it in his final test against England in 1998.
Smith took just 32 tests for his 24 and Stanger, like Hogg from Hawick, took 52. Hogg will play in his 89th test against Japan at Murrayfield and is not yet 30. Taking the record has long seemed inevitable.
“I have found myself in fortunate positions,” he said. “For me I want to represent Scotland, to be the best player I can, to enjoy my rugby and be part of a successful team.
“Anything individual on the back of that is a Brucie bonus.
“Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about Ian Smith although Gregor put his picture up on the team board at the start of this campaign.
“I know a lot more about Tony Stanger. He managed to get to 24 tries in just 52 caps. I’ve got a lot more games under my belt!
“I want to be in the position to score tries to help out the team. But I just want us to win, and put in performances that we’re all proud of.”
‘We’ve yet to have a complete performance’
What. A. Try.
Captain Stuart Hogg goes over for Scotland after lovely build-up play.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 13, 2021
Most of all, Hogg wants to finish the Autumn Series on a high and put in the all-round performance he admits they’ve been lacking this November.
“I think if we’re being honest we’ve yet to have a complete performance on both sides of the ball,” he said. “But we’ve learned a huge amount throughout these last three games, and hopefully tomorrow, it will be the case.”
Japan’s win two years ago over Scotland in the World Cup is ancient history as far as the Scots are concerned.
“They are still a very, very intelligent rugby team,” he said. “They’re one of the quickest in terms of shifting the ball side to side going forward.
“They have key players in there with a lot of strengths and their kicking game is very, very good. I remember in 2016 they went from defending a line out 5 metres from their line to taking seven points a few seconds later.”
‘We have to kick on’
2021, with a record of five wins and three losses so far, has been largely positive, he feels.
“We would rather have been in a position to win every single game but we have been there or thereabouts in every game,” he said.
“We can take valuable experience, get better, enjoy each other’s company but we have to kick on, that is what we are about.
“The long term goal is to be in the best position in the World Cup. The short term goal is to take it game by game.
“That positive vibe we have around camp is the best it has been in all my years in being involved with Scotland. For me that speaks volumes for the results we have been getting.
“But we are old enough and ugly enough to release that won’t keep happening unless we keep standards up.”
Inspiring the minis
— The Futures Green 🟢 (@CommunityHRFC) November 14, 2021
And Hogg feels the privilege of being captain of his country acutely, spending his Sunday off camp at the Hawick minis.
“I went home to see my parents and my brother is in charge of all things rugby in Hawick at the minute,” he explained. “He told me there was minis every Sunday so I wanted to see what he was up to.
“I always remember being a kid when we had Nikki Walker, Scotty MacLeod and Kelly Brown who used to come down. I remember what it felt like to be the kid in that situation.
“So if I can have any impact or make any kid feel the same way then that’s exactly what I’m about.
“And I speak on behalf of everybody in the Scottish rugby team. We want to inspire the next generation. And if that encourages boys and girls of all ages to pick up a rugby ball then that’s exactly what we’re about.”