STUART Hogg played in every match for Scotland last year, but faces a race against time if he is to have a chance of doing the same this year.
The Glasgow Warriors full-back should be named today in national coach Vern Cotter’s squad for the RBS Six Nations Championship, but, as he is currently recovering from slight hamstring tear, he has to hope that his rehabilitation continues to go well if he is to play any part in the opening game of the tournament against France a week on Saturday.
There is one more round of Champions Cup fixtures to go before then, and it is a vital one at that, as Glasgow probably need a win and a bonus point at Bath this weekend if they are to get through to the knockout stages. Hogg has not completely ruled himself out of that match at the Recreation Ground, but insisted that, while eager to return to action, he had to remain patient.
“To be honest, I’m not quite sure about the timeframe,” he said yesterday. “I don’t want to rush back. I’ve just been concentrating on my rehab and it’s going well, so fingers crossed it can continue that way. The game against Bath might be pushing it a little bit, but here’s hoping it won’t be too long.
“I hope I’ll play a part against France, but first and foremost I have to get fit. We’ve been keeping the Scotland physio up to speed with how my rehab’s going.
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“I’ve never won against France, so I’d love to put that right. It was fantastic to play in every game for Scotland last year, and I was fortunate not to pick up any injuries on the way.”
That consistent run has contrasted with Hogg’s fortunes with Glasgow this season. He has had to contend with some niggling injuries, and, by his own admission, has failed to play consistently at his best. “This year my club form has been disappointing and I’ve not got a good run of games – I picked up one wee injury then another. But hopefully I can come back, find form and get that run of games.
“Other players can easily step in and take your jersey away when you’re out injured, so my first job will be to get the No 15 jersey back for Glasgow and keep Peter Murchie and Sean Maitland out of it. If I get that opportunity I’ll aim to make the most of it.
“When you’re out injured you can go to the home games and cheer on the team, but for the away games you’re left at home. That’s the hardest thing to take when you’re out injured. I’ll be cheering my heart out watching them on television, but I’m really bad at watching the team when I’m not playing myself.”
A full-strength Glasgow would find the job of winning in Bath tough enough, but the Warriors squad was further depleted at the weekend when Duncan Weir sustained an injury that will keep him out for four months. Josh Strauss was also injured in the win against Montpellier but it is not yet certain when he will return.
“We’re well aware of the task in hand and of the size of the threat that Bath pose to us,” Hogg continued. “It’s a massive week for us: first of all we’ll analyse our performance from the weekend against Montpellier, because we believe we let a bonus point slip away.
“It would be amazing if we do get a win and a bonus point at Bath. If we do that, we’ve put ourselves in a good position, and then we’ve just got to hope that other teams slip up.”
Glasgow beat Bath 37-10 at home back in October, and that kind of result is exactly what is required this weekend if they are to give themselves the best chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals either as pool winners or as one of the three best runners-up from the five groups. But the English club are a lot more formidable now than they were three months ago, as they showed at the weekend by winning 35-18 in Toulouse.
“You’ve just got to look at that performance to see how much they’ve changed since we played them at home. Collectively they’re one of the best teams in Europe, and they’re also really entertaining to watch, so defensively we’ll have to be on top of our game.”
• BT Sport is the only place to watch top live matches from the new European Rugby Champions Cup, European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Aviva Premiership. Bath Rugby v Glasgow Warriors kicks off on 25 January at 13:00, live on BT Sport.
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