Stuart Hogg: Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend lauds full-back ahead of 100th cap and predicts sparkling performance against Ireland
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has heaped praise on Stuart Hogg ahead of the full-back’s 100 Test for his country against Ireland on Sunday.
The 30-year-old has been lauded as “one of the best players in the history of Scottish rugby” as a mouth-watering Six Nations fixture with the Irish looms large.
Since making his debut against Wales in 2012, Hogg has matured into an elite player and Townsend is hoping his century can help inspire his team to victory.
Townsend delighted for Hogg
“It’s very well deserved,” the head coach said of Hogg’s feat. “He’s been one of our best players over the last 10 years but also in the history of Scottish rugby.
“We put a tribute video on for him the other day when we announced the team with some of the tries he’s scored, some of the victories he’s been involved in.
“The creative nature of his game, his durability, his love of the jersey, his love of playing the game has been constant throughout that period.
“Right from 19-20 years old when I first started working with him at Scotland, and then at Glasgow, it blew me away to see his passing with either hand, his kicking ability, his speed. He’s been one of the best rugby players I’ve had the pleasure to work with.
“It’s a great game to win your 100th cap, back at home, with a trophy at stake.
“He’ll lead the team out and I’m sure the crowd will want to show their love for him and their appreciation of what he’s done in that jersey.”
Townsend expects the significance of Hogg’s milestone won’t be lost on him and expects a good outing from the full-back when they take on the world’s best.
“This week he’s trained the best he has this season, so he’s responded really well to being named in the team, to having the players behind him and congratulating him on his 100th cap,” he said ahead of the Ireland clash.
“He’s looking in great physical shape. I know he was wanting to play last weekend for Exeter but I messaged him to say ‘look, just take it as a positive that not playing will mean you’re going to be really fresh for what will be a big week for you’.”
Two change to starting team
Scotland’s selection on Friday saw two changes to the team that lost to France, with Jack Dempsey and Jonny Gray coming in, as Townsend explained his calls.
“Jack’s been really consistent in training and he’s taken that into the games where he’s come off the bench and we feel this is the right time to see that blend,” he said.
“We believe Hamish can have a big role to play in that last quarter of the game or longer, potentially.
“When you play against the top sides in the world, the last 20 minutes is going to be very important, just like the first 20 minutes.”
Townsend added: “It’s the best Ireland team we’ve faced.
“They’re on the back of a lot of big wins and they’ve got their strongest team they could probably put out to play us this weekend, so – while we’ve improved – we’ve got more improvement in us and we’re going up against a team that’s on top of their game.”
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