Stuart Hogg reveals why 53 was the magic number as he prepares to bring up the century

The full-back will become the fourth Scots male to reach the 100-cap landmark when he plays against Ireland this afternoon

Stuart Hogg will win his 100th cap versus Ireland this afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson -
Stuart Hogg will win his 100th cap versus Ireland this afternoon. Image: © Craig Watson -

WHEN Stuart Hogg makes his 100th appearance for Scotland today [Sunday], it will be just the latest milestone in a remarkable career  and, still only 30, the Hawick man has plenty of time in which to reach several more. But, while winning even a single cap is something achieved by relatively few players, and reaching the century mark is much rarer still, yesterday the full-back revealed that for long enough he had harboured a far different ambition  to win 53.

To outsiders, that might seem a random number to aim at. To those who know their Scottish rugby history, especially to those who hail from the same town as Hogg, it makes perfect sense.

“When you get one, you want two and then three and so forth,” Hogg explained after taking part in the squad’s eve-of-match run-through at BT Murrayfield. “But when I started playing regular rugby all I wanted was 53. 

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“And people used to ask me, ‘Why the hell do you want 53?’ and it was because that would make me the most-capped Hawick player, overtaking Tony Stanger, Colin Deans and Jim Renwick. These little things start to play on your mind a little bit.

“The game is ever-changing. It took Jim 13 years to get 52 caps. The game is completely different to what it was back then.

“For me, every opportunity you get to represent your country, there’s no better feeling. It’s a feeling that I love and I’ll miss when I’m gone. And it’s a feeling right now that I’ll never ever take for granted. This jersey and this country means the world to me. And I’ll do everything I can to make sure I represent it in the best way.”

When the match kicks off at 3pm, Hogg will join four other Scots in the 100 club. Donna Kennedy, the former Scotland Women No 8, is the nation’s outright record-holder with 115. In the men’s game, only three players reached the century before Hogg Sean Lamont, Chris Paterson and Ross Ford, and all three were at BT Murrayfield yesterday to present him with his match jersey. 

That trio and Kennedy retired some time ago, while out of the current squad Jonny and Richie Gray are closest to him, but a long way back with 75 and 72 caps respectively. That is a large enough gap to ensure that Hogg will not have any competition in his sights as he approaches that 115 mark. With the World Cup coming up later this year, he should get to that point in 2024, and could easily end up with a total closer to 150.

Of course, the former captain will have no time to muse on such pleasant possibilities this afternoon, when he will be able to look no further ahead of himself than the game against an Ireland side who are five points clear at the top of the Championship table. But if Scotland do win, they will have lifted the Triple Crown for the first time since the Grand Slam year of 1990, providing Hogg with the one kind of honour that has so far been missing from his CV. And if they do that, they will be back in the running for a crack at the Six Nations title itself, with only a home game against Italy to come next Saturday.


He has already toured three times with the British & Irish Lions, he has twice been named player of the Championship, has captained his country, and has won both the English Premiership and the European Champions Cup with his club, Exeter Chiefs. But although he has already achieved so much, that glaring omission is still nagging away at him.

Having said that, he genuinely believes that the current team are better placed to win a trophy than any of its predecessors he has been involved with. “I think this is my 12th attempt at the Six Nations, and only the first time I have been in a position to win a Triple Crown,” he said.

“It just shows how far we have come as a squad and as a team, and we are moving towards something special. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think the boys have a huge amount of trust and confidence in each other. I’ve been around a long time in this team, and that’s something that we’ve not necessarily lacked, but we more believe in it now. As squads go, I think this is the tightest squad I’ve ever been involved in, and one that I’m very much looking forward to being a part of for a long time, hopefully.”

An emotionally committed player, and an optimist by nature, Hogg has been around long enough to know how tough it will be today to get the better of opponents who are top of the World Rugby rankings, and who have already cemented their status as the best team in the planet during this tournament by beating their closest rivals, France.

“Ireland have picked a huge amount of experience for this game and that’s what you want to play,” he concluded. “You want to play against the best players and the best team, and to have Ireland here, the No 1 ranked team in world rugby, is just quality for us. 

“I think every game that you get an opportunity to play against Ireland, you know it’s going to be incredibly physical and challenging. I think they’re one of the smartest rugby teams I’ve ever come across. 

“Ireland are up there for a reason and their record speaks volumes. Myself and the rest of the boys respect them and admire them hugely – but we also know we can do a job on them and that’s one that we’re excited for.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1240 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

1 Comment

  1. Great player but not a good role model as people have been suggesting this weekend. Congratulations on 100 caps.

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