It’s only six years since Gregor Townsend feared that he and Stuart Hogg “might not work together as player and coach” but now the electric full-back, Scotland’s high-profile player in modern times, is also the national team’s captain.
The 26-year-old, 72-times capped player takes over the job for the forthcoming Guinness Six Nations from Stuart McInally, who was squad captain at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. It seems that Hogg, a double British Lion and the face of the national team, wanted the job and having decided to move on from McInally, national head coach Townsend had no reason to deny him it.
Yet it’s not so long that the two had such a falling out that Hogg was trying to force an exit from Glasgow when Townsend was head coach there. That changed, Townsend reflected yesterday, due to the player.
“At one time I was really worried we might not work together as coach and player anymore,” said Townsend. “A lot of that (changing) was down to Stuart in the way he reacted the following season.
“He came in and was ultra-professional and determined to be the best player he could be. I think he was Six Nations Player of the Year that year and again the following season.
“It’s down to him. And obviously I feel very grateful to coach someone like Stuart – and see him grow as a person. He’s a family man now, he’s taken on the challenge of going to a new club. This is the right time for him.”
Hogg has long been “an energiser” for the squad as a whole, Townsend added.
“If you watch any of our sessions, you’ll know that he’s the loudest player on the field and for a full-back that’s a great thing,” added the coach. “You also see when we win a penalty, whether it’s a scrum penalty or around the contact area, he’s first in.
“He’s an energiser. And that’s a real attribute to have as a captain. He’s learned a lot from his own experiences and from others.
“Maybe a few years ago it would have been too early, but now he wants to do it. And he has the experience and knowledge about what needs to be said, when to let others talk.
‘We’ll see what happens in the Six Nations. There are going to be challenges for the team and the captain – and there will be more responsibilities. But he’s embracing that.”
Hogg, speaking to Scottish Rugby’s website, said he was “very honoured to lead this team”.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of young players coming through and there’s a lot of experience in there as well,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it and taking on the challenges that are coming our way.”
He expected to lean heavily on playmakers like Finn Russell and experienced players like Stuart McInally and Fraser Brown, as well as emerging leaders like Jamie Ritchie, he added.
“It won’t just be down to me, it’ll be down to us all,” he continued. “We’re a collective unit; our motto of ‘As One’ is not just the team, it’s absolutely everything involved with Scottish rugby.
“We want the fans to look at us and be happy with what they’re seeing and see a bit of them in the way we’re playing.
“That comes down to regular meetings, high standards and the enjoyment in the opportunity. That’s when we’re at our best, when we’ve smile on our faces and we’re expressing ourselves.”