Stuart Hogg felt the emotions of a fan and the frustrations of a player last year when sidelined as Scotland played England, and the captain is determined that a balance will be found in this year’s Calcutta Cup clash at BT Murrayfield.
There has to be both the fire of the occasion and what it means for the nation but also the professionalism of preparation and discipline if the Scots are to start fulfilling their potential and retain the Calcutta Cup for a third year in succession, the first time that will have happened since 1971.
Hogg was injured and out of the team for last year’s epic 38-all draw at Twickenham, and watching the game with family and friends at his daughter’s birthday party was a rollercoaster of emotion, he recalled.
“We had a lot of people around to enjoy the whole Super Sunday,” he said. “I didn’t enjoy the first half, obviously, but that was also frustration for the boys because I’d been part of the squad and knew what the guys were trying to do tactically.
“The second half was a Scotland performance. I was incredibly proud of what the boys achieved. Clearly we can’t ever give them a 31-0 start, we have to make sure we are ready to go. England are renowned for starting well and you saw that in the World Cup.
“But the second half showed we can attack and defend and mix up a game plan as much as we want, and it is simply down to believing in your own ability, and that of the man next to you and the man next to him.
“If we get that we will be in a very good place. We have worked incredibly hard over the last few weeks to get in the best place possible and I truly believe tomorrow we can go out there and win.”
The Scots have let the unique nature of the Calcutta Cup and what the match means to their fans get to them in the past, but have taken the tack of embracing the occasion while at the same time focusing on basics.
“It’s England, but we need to concentrate on the fact it’s just a normal game,” he said. “If you’ve got the opportunity to perform in a Scotland jersey then you’ve got to do your individual role for the team.
“We have attack structures to nail down. Defensively we have to be rock solid. And we just have to concentrate on doing that for 80 minutes.
“It’s the simple things that we can execute time and time again. We have to be on the money to shut down England. We are desperate to win. England are desperate to win. It’s going to take a complete 80 minute performance from us to get that win.
“I believe we’re ready. I believe we’re in the best place we can be, even on the back of a defeat. A lot of people have said this week that there will be a big reaction from England after Paris and they will be ready to rock and roll, but we were beaten last weekend and we will have a reaction as well.”
Scotland had world boxing champion Josh Taylor in camp yesterday for the final training run and an address to the team, and this is a big one personally for Hogg as he captains Scotland at Murrayfield for the first time, in the biggest match of the year.
“I believe Mike Blair first skippered the team at Murrayfield against England, so I will chat to him about that,” he said.
“It’s a great honour to lead this side. For me, my game doesn’t change. I do my job and make sure I’m leading by example.
“We’ve got the gameplan and the players in this squad to be winning Test matches. The tag that we’ve been given (of unlucky losers) really hurts the players but we need to be in a position to win Test matches before that goes.
“We get another opportunity tomorrow to make sure that’s gone. There’s a Calcutta Cup to play for and that’s all we’re concentrating on. It’s a huge occasion for us.”