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Six Nations 2021: New slate for Scotland despite away successes last year, says Stuart Hogg

Captain Stuart Hogg and coach Gregor Townsend at the Six Nations launch.

Scotland’s wins in London and Paris last year “mean absolutely nothing” in a fresh Guinness Six Nations Championship, believes captain Stuart Hogg.

Save for some measure of confidence gained, the victories that broke long winless streaks in the two rivals’ capitals do not really apply to hosting them in this year’s championship. That begins next week at home to England.

‘These are the toughest games there are’

The captain and head coach at training at Oriam on Monday.

“We’d been building up towards last year for a long time,” said Hogg, about to start his third championship as Scotland captain. “But it counts for absolutely nothing this season.

“We can look back on those games and see what really worked for us. We did the simple things well in both games.

“Against England we defended well, we kicked well. Against France we showed our attacking side of the game.

“But no game is the same. We can look back and take little things from those ones but is it going to make us win a week on Saturday? Probably not.

“We have to work incredibly hard to make sure we’re in this game for 80 minutes, and win as many moments as we possibly can from within the game.

“We can take a little bit of confidence from knowing we can beat the best teams. These are the toughest games there are, and the ones you want to be involved in. And we are excited for that challenge.”

‘I’ve had to grow up a little bit’

Now comfortable in the role as captain, what gives Hogg most pleasure in the role is the personal, he says.

“I’ve had to grow up a little bit over the last couple of years you could say,” he said. “Before I was captain I loved being around the boys, keeping them on their toes.

“The big thing for me is learning about my teammates, any new boys who come in or players who I haven’t played with for a long time.

“I love learning about their families, what they do off the field and how you get the best out of them on the training field and in a game. What makes them tick.

“Our motto is “As One” and we want everybody to bring their own character and traits to the party. We want to be in a position to make memories on and off the field.

“Every time we come into camp you seem to enjoy it more. It’s no coincidence that results have been coming on the back of that.”

Impressed by Marcus Smith’s rise

Hogg knows that England will be strong, and although the absence of Owen Farrell – who needs ankle surgery – is “a huge loss” he’s impressed with the captain’s replacement.

“Owen has huge experience and is a born winner,” he said. “But Marcus is young and coming through, with an incredible talent.

“He doesn’t take himself too seriously off the field but works hard on the training field.

“We at Exeter played against him (for Harlequins) a few weeks ago. He was winding me up with his eyes and hand signals, he was sending me left, right and all over the place, I didn’t know where he was going.

“He’s a quality player and no doubt will have a big impact on how England do in this campaign.”

Scotland’s absence issues are nowhere near as severe as England’s. Wings Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Rowe did not join training camp due to illness, but are due to return next Monday.

Josh Bayliss suffered a concussion playing for Bath against Leinster, but he was beginning return-to-play protocols on Wednesday and should be ready for the Calcutta Cup if needed.

Redpath well in the running

Bath may have been heavily defeated in that game, but Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend still liked what he saw from Cameron Redpath. The centre was playing only his second game since returning from ACL surgery.

“Obviously he’s missed a lot of rugby, and just in terms of the physical side of the game he’s finding his feet,” said Townsend. “He’s played two games since he was out injured for about eight months and has gone well.

“They were very tough fixtures – away to La Rochelle, where he played at 10, and then Leinster. We’re hoping he’ll get another opportunity this weekend for Bath against Harlequins.

“We’ll see where we are with Cam and with the rest of the players as we head into England week. But it’s just brilliant to see him back fit and playing again.”

Townsend say Marcus Smith up close when the young England 10 was called up by the Lions last summer. He thinks England will play a different way with the Harlequin running things.

“Marcus showed with Quins in some big games that he can step up when his team’s behind. He helped his team win, but also scored tries as an individual. He showed in the Lions the quality of the player he is.

“If he’s selected then England will play a different way. They’re going to have to bring Marcus into the game and show his strengths, so we’ve got to negate that. We’ve got to be aware that it is a different style of rugby.”

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