Stuart Hogg has credited his Scotland team-mates with helping him achieve a second successive Six Nations Player of the Championship award.
The full-back has completed a remarkable back-to-back success in the public vote 12 months after becoming the first Scot to win the award.
The Glasgow Warriors player received the backing of 29,734 fans, which secured him 24.6 per cent of the poll and a comfortable victory over the 11 other contenders.
CJ Stander of Ireland came in second place with 14.9 per cent of the vote, with France’s Louis Picamoles third with 12.8 per cent, followed by England lock Joe Launchbury (8.9 per cent). Finn Russell, who was the other Scot on the list, got 8.3 per cent to finish fifth, ahead of Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray.
“To receive this award again is an absolute honour, particularly when you take other players on the shortlist into account,” said Hogg.
“I’m delighted to be awarded the RBS Player of the Championship trophy and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted and the fans for their continued support throughout the championship.”
Hogg was surprised by the award at a Warriors squad meeting at Scotstoun yesterday, with coach Gregor Townsend, who will take the Scotland reins in June, revealing that the full-back had won again. The trophy was presented by former Glasgow and Scotland captain Al Kellock.
“It feels amazing. I’m chuffed to bits to win this award,” Hogg told Warriors TV later. “But for me I played in a very good Scotland side over the past few weeks. It all starts up front. The forward pack got the backs on the front foot and thankfully we got a lot of ball out wide. I couldn’t have done it without my Scotland team-mates.”
Hogg scored three tries in the tournament and also provided key assists for other Scottish scores, further advancing his Lions chances and hopes of becoming the first Scot to start a Test for the British and Irish select since Tom Smith in 2001.
Asked to pick out his 2017 Six Nations highlight, Hogg said: “I think you look at that Ireland game first up. We targeted starting well. We knew we hadn’t won the opening game for a hell of a long time. So to win in the manner we did was terrific and it gave us good confidence going forward.
“We had a couple of little blips against France and obviously England. But getting those wins over Wales and Italy as well shows we’re on the up. We’re going out there and expressing ourselves, having fun and the good thing is we’re winning games as well. It was a very enjoyable Six Nations.”
Hogg became the youngest Scot to reach 50 caps during the tournament and, with 53, also became the most-capped product of his hometown Hawick club. In retaining the Player of the Championship award he emulates the feat of Brian O’Driscoll, who won in 2006 and 2007 and is the only other man to have won it twice.
Hogg added: “Last year I was the first Scotsman to do it. I’ve got a lot of time for Brian. He was my hero growing up. To do it twice like he did is pretty special.”
The focus now returns to Glasgow, with the visit of champions Connacht in the Pro12 tomorrow, and the European Champions Cup quarter-final at Saracens next weekend.
“It’s all about doing well for Glasgow now,” said Hogg. “We’re in a good place in Europe and very much looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
“In terms of the Pro12 we’re in a little bit of a sticky situation but we know the task in hand and we’re very much excited to go out there and hopefully get into the play-offs.”