Stuart Hogg hopes for more Scottish feel-good factor in Autumn Nations Cup

By Andy Newport, PA
·4-min read

Skipper Stuart Hogg says Scotland’s rugby team plan to give the Tartan Army further reason to smile in the wake of their football counterparts’ Euro 2020 qualification joy.

Steve Clarke’s side have given the national mood a huge lift by ending their 22-year exile from major tournaments with victory over Serbia in Belgrade.

And now Hogg says the country’s oval-ball representatives are determined to prolong the feel good factor swirling round north of the border by securing a win over Italy in Florence on Saturday.

Gregor Townsend’s team have done their bit to lift the morale of the nation in recent weeks, with a rampant win over Georgia and then a first away victory in Wales since 2002 extending Scotland’s unbeaten run to four games.

Hogg knows those kind of performances will mean so much more during the hard times we have all be living through in recent months and he is keen to do his bit to ensure the gloom is lifted further when his team kick-off their Autumn Nations Cup campaign against the Azzurri.

The Dark Blues captain said: “We were absolutely delighted for the football boys.

“They’ve been around (our training base) at the Oriam for the last few weeks so it’s great to see them succeed. For the nation, what they achieved was massive. A lot of us sat around and watched the game and we were absolutely buzzing for it.

“The big thing which hit home was that we are there to inspire the nation and the football boys did exactly that. Now it’s our turn, it’s our turn to inspire the nation and put smiles on peoples faces.

“It has been a tough year for everybody so if we can play a small part by putting smiles on peoples faces by getting results for everybody then that’s us doing our jobs.

“How good would it be if we were to win on Saturday? It would cap a great week for Scottish sport and that’s our aim.”

A lack of self-belief has been a limiting factor which has held back Scotland’s football and rugby teams alike in recent years but Hogg insists now is the time for Thistles to bloom brighter than ever.

He said: “We analyse where we are at on a weekly basis. We preview teams and look at opportunities to how we can bring our game into play.

“The big thing for me is that I don’t believe the boys actually believe just how good they can be.

“It’s starting to come in now that we are starting to believe in ourselves as individuals and starting to believe in ourselves as a team and long may that continue.

“We understand we will have to challenge ourselves on a daily basis and we need to have frank conversations and work extremely hard.

“We want to be a successful team and we believe we are on the right track.

“We are nowhere near being the finished article and we never are going to be but what we are doing is continuing to learn and improve. The boys want to get better and make a difference so here’s hoping we can continue that.

“Can we win the Autumn Nations Cup? We would love to be in a position to win it but we can’t look too far ahead. We face Italy on Saturday afternoon and that’s all we are focusing on. After that we will concentrate on France. It’s going to be one hell of a challenge but these are the games you want to be involved in.

Scotland Training Session – BT Murrayfield
Duncan Weir is back in the Scotland picture (Jane Barlow/PA)

There is a familiar face back in Townsend’s ranks this weekend as stand-off Duncan Weir makes his first start in four years in place of injured pivots Finn Russell and Adam Hastings.

But Hogg believes it is not only the former Glasgow Warrior’s hair which has sprouted since he moved to Worcester in 2018 as he hailed the new sense of assuredness the 29-year-old is displaying.

“Dunccy’s a lot more relaxed nowadays than he was a few years ago,” he said. “He’s a breath of fresh air round the camp. He’s come in with great energy, wanting to learn and improve on a daily basis and to keep the spirits high. But he also understands that he needs to drive us around the field.

“He’s old enough and ugly enough now to realise that.

“He’s been brilliant since coming back in. He’s been given an opportunity now and hopefully he and his wig can direct us around the field tomorrow.”