France v Scotland: Stuart Hogg hacked off by lack of respect

Captain believes there has been too much focus on what opponents need to do to win the Six Nations and not enough recognition of his team

Stuart Hogg says Scotland are entitled to believe that they can upset France this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Stuart Hogg says Scotland are entitled to believe that they can upset France this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND have not had their troubles to seek this week. First, they lost winger Sean Maitland to the scandalous compromise deal which allows only five English-based players to be released for tomorrow [Friday] night’s clash against France in Paris, then we found out at lunchtime today that No 8 Matt Fagerson had picked up an ankle injury at training on Wednesday and has had to withdraw.

However, captain Stuart Hogg was in no mood for lamenting his team’s rotten luck during his usual eve of match press conference. In fact, he was rather disgruntled that there has been so much fatalistic chat from a Scottish perspective in recent days.

“A lot has been said – and, in fact, it’s beginning to hack me off – that they [France] need 20 points to win [the Six Nations],” he said. “We read a quote from one of their players saying they had a trophy to win, so as a proud Scotsman that hurt me a lot.


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“If we win by eight-points we finish the highest we’ve ever done in a Six Nations, so that’s the motivation for us. It’s going to be one hell of a challenge, it’s going to be an open game of rugby to be involved in, and we’re really excited for it.

“The ongoing thing is that there’s a lot of stuff written where they concentrate on the opposition rather than us,” he added. “But we’re quite happy to go quietly about our work in the right ways and let our rugby do the talking. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done so far in this Six Nations – it has not all been perfect, by any means – but we’ve got the chance to finish on a good note and celebrate the time we’ve had in camp.

“There’s been a lot of sacrifices we’ve had to make, staying away from home for long periods, a lot of travel for exile boys, a lot of hard work, and tomorrow we want to finish on a high note and celebrate the time in each other’s company.

Fagerson’s place in the starting XV has been taken by Edinburgh’s Australian-born breakaway Nick Haining, with Glasgow Warriors stalwart Ryan Wilson now in line to win his 50th cap off the bench.

Wilson hasn’t, up until yesterday, been involved with the squad during the 17 months since winning his 49th cap as a replacement during Scotland’s loss to Japan at the 2019 World Cup, but head coach Gregor Townsend couldn’t turn to the likes of Cornell du Preez or Gary Graham (who have both spent time in the camp during this campaign so at least have prior knowledge of the line-out codes and son on) because of the same deal with English clubs which obstructed Maitland’s involvement this week.

The fact that this game is being played outside the international window is not Scotland’s fault. It was originally meant to be played on 28th February but had to be pushed back because of a Covid outbreak in the French camp, with subsequent revelations about head coach Fabien Galthie leaving the team bubble to watch his son play rugby and players going out in Rome for waffles after their game against Italy suggesting that there had been a lack of discipline when it came to following Covid protocols. Yet, it is Hogg and his team-mates who have been handicapped by only having five English-based players available for the match.

“My opinion is one that I’ll keep to myself on this because I don’t want it to be headline news when there’s other things to concentrate on,” said Hogg, as diplomatically as he could manage. “For me, we’ll put the squad first, get the job done tomorrow and play for these boys. It will take a complete 80-minute performance on both sides of the ball.

“The biggest thing I have learned, over the last couple of years especially, is that when we get things right and concentrate on ourselves, we are a bloody good team,” he added. “We respect the opposition we come up against, we analyse them early on, and look at their strengths and where opportunities lie – but from that day towards the game it is very much concentrating on ourselves. We get excited about executing our game-plan and hopefully we can do exactly that against France.”

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Scotland could actually finish second if they win by five points, so long as they score four tries and France don’t. Meanwhile an eight point win will do it so long as France don’t score four tries and Scotland score three or less. It is not an easy thing to keep track of, especially in the heat of battle.

“That’s something that we’ve looked at this week as leaders, as a coaching group and as a squad – we’ve looked at the different outcomes that can happen – but our primary focus is to go out there and get the job done, to get a win and to make sure we’re in very good positions,” said Hogg.

“We’ve talked about different scenarios around how they’re going to start the game, all the way up to different things about the score-lines towards the end of the game. So, there’s lots of different scenarios that are going to come our way. But as a leadership group and as a team we need to remain calm and collected, and make sure we’re not making rash decisions. That’s something we haven’t done before. I like to think we’re ready and prepared for all these different scenarios that might come our way.

“This is probably the biggest challenge of our Six Nations,” he added. “We know fine well what they’re about. They need to win by 20 points or whatever it is, but for us that’s an incredible challenge. We need to stand up defensively, try and frustrate them as much as we possibly can. It’s not a case of us stopping them scoring 20 points, we’re going out there to play our own game and win a Test match. We feel we’re ready – we’re excited for this.

“The pressure we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves. In the Wales game we did not adapt to a couple of little things that did not go our way. We were two points off in a Test match. Ireland very similar. There were moments in both matches when we could have put the games to bed, and it is these little things that let us down. We are the guys most frustrated about that. The flip side is that we know how good we can be and we can go out there and show a true Scottish performance. It is going to take a complete 80 mins performance. Hopefully we can show what we are about.


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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

3 Comments

  1. Well said Mr Hogg, I agree with every sentiment and the reality is the more we start winning, the more the conversation will be about Scotland, not the opposition.

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