STUART Hogg has revealed that his summer star turn with Scotland provided him with the perfect platform to reclaim his starting place in the Glasgow line-up.
The 22-year-old’s meteoric rise since he made his Warriors debut in season 2010/11 saw Hogg go on to establish himself as first-choice full-back for both Glasgow and Scotland and book a place on the victorious British and Irish Lions tour of Australia last year.
However, with niggling injuries undermining his progress last season, a loss of form and focus also followed after the Borderer’s dismissal following a late tackle on Wales’ Dan Biggar in Scotland’s Six Nations defeat at the Millennium Stadium.
Subsequently Hogg found himself marginalised by the understated efficiency of Peter Murchie who was preferred in both the semi-final and final of the Pro12 last term and also started the new campaign in pole position at 15.
But a refocused Hogg has since roared back to reclaim the full-back slot, starting Glasgow’s past three games and scoring two vital tries against the previously unbeaten Connacht, while producing some scintillating attacking rugby, as the Warriors’ backline has cut loose with 15 tries in their past three outings.
Now the Glasgow favourite says he has fallen back in love with the game thanks to his summer of Scotland service.
“I really enjoyed the summer tour with Scotland, it made up for what happened back in the Six Nations and brought light at the end of the tunnel,” said Hogg.
“It was great to get the try against the USA and follow that up with a decent game against Canada and another try against Argentina and then the whole experience with the Scotland Sevens at Ibrox was a real buzz and gave me a new lease of life.
“But I have learned a lot from the past 12 months, drawn a line under it and now it’s great to be back enjoying my rugby again.”
Hogg also paid a glowing tribute to team-mate Murchie, whose composure and consistency saw Hogg miss out on last term’s showpiece Pro12 final at the RDS against Leinster.
“Peter Murchie is so solid under the high ball, he makes some great runs and he was playing out of his skin at the end of last season and he deserved it,” admitted Hogg. “The flip side of that was my attitude was not good, I was struggling to get into the side on form and I was disappointed with myself.
“On the other hand Murchie was playing the rugby of his life and when that happens sometimes you just have to say that the other guy deserves it more. But I believe I learned from all of that and I’m the better for it.”
Hogg also admitted that the work he has done with Scotland legend Chris Paterson, who regularly coaches the Warriors backs at Scotstoun, has been a great influence in helping him return to the top of his game.
Indeed Paterson’s expert tutelage was perhaps evident in the laser-guided 43-metre kick that helped secure a 19-17 victory over Canada at the BMO Stadium back on 14 June.
With Hogg backing up that vital contribution with tries against the USA and Argentina in the Tests either side of the meeting with the Canucks, it was clear that the vibrancy had once again returned to his game.
“Mossy [Paterson] was outstanding for Scotland, he was one of the best Scotland internationals there has been and that is why he is our record point scorer and cap holder and it has been great for me to be able to work with a guy of that calibre,” said Hogg.
“We’ve all benefited from Mossy’s help at Glasgow and I’ve certainly learned a lot from him.
“But although the last few years have been incredible I know I still have an awful lot to learn and to improve on, so there is plenty of hard work still to be done.”
Glasgow put their unbeaten five-game start to the Guinness Pro12 season on the line at third-placed Ulster on Saturday and then face two mouth-watering outings in the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup against Bath and Montpellier and a league return with Treviso, before the autumn internationals appear on the horizon.
Hogg admits that he is still pinching himself at his exalted status as a Scotland talisman. “My first few involvements [with Scotland] were surreal but I enjoy it more every year and the main thing is that I am learning all the time.”
Meanwhile, Glasgow have confirmed the capacity of Scotstoun Stadium will be increased to around 7,000 following huge demand for tickets for the upcoming Champions Cup match with Bath.
A new covered 864-seater west stand will be constructed and will be in place for the visit of the English Premiership side on Saturday, 18 October.
Glasgow managing director Nathan Bombrys said: “We’ve already sold around 5,000 tickets for our European Rugby Champions Cup opener with Bath later this month. With over 3,300 season ticket members this season – a record number for the club – and an increasing number of supporters attending individual games we’ve moved quickly to increase the capacity of the stadium.
“Thanks to Scottish Rugby and Glasgow Life we’ve managed to secure an additional covered stand which will be in place until the Glasgow Sevens in May.
“This means more covered seating will be available for our supporters and we’re delighted it will be in place for the visit of Bath – who currently sit second in the Aviva Premiership.”