Scotland’s players will be feeling the physical effects of a long, attritional Six Nations campaign this morning but, for star man Stuart Hogg, the biggest injury threat comes from smiling too much.
The full-back had to go off injured early in the carnage of the Calcutta Cup but it was all uphill from there as he welcomed the arrival of a second child, Olivia, last Wednesday and then went on to play a key role in Saturday’s 29-0 win over Italy.
“I’ve got a sore jaw from smiling. It has been a very good week; I’m chuffed to bits,” said Hogg. “I’ve slept well all week, but don’t say that to the wife!”
Hogg, the Six Nations player of the year last season, has enjoyed another stellar tournament and has cemented himself as, arguably, the most dangerous attacking back in the northern hemisphere.
On Saturday he provided the assist for all four of Scotland’s tries and he said: “Right time, right place I would say. We knew that the full-back would shut the space quickly and that there would be space in behind.
“Viss [Tim Visser] took his try really well. I’m just disappointed I didn’t get there myself. It’s part and parcel of being a full-back but you join the line and try to put the boys away and thankfully that was the case today.”
After some rest, Hogg will now look to Glasgow’s big European quarter-final at Saracens and trying to drag them back into the Guinness Pro12 play-off picture, with the small matter of the Lions squad announcement later next month.
Some naysayers south of the Border may point to defensive failings, something that Warren Gatland, pictured, himself has mentioned, but Hogg proved a point on Saturday with some impressive tackling, celebrating one try-saver as if he had touched down at the other end.
“I have been fairly disappointed with the way I have defended, but you’re never the complete player,” conceded Hogg. “I’ve worked hard on it and thankfully it worked today. But one game is not good enough for me, it’s on to the next game now. It [the try-saving tackle on [Angelo Esposito] was tremendous. It all kind of started with my duff kick which went into touch and we were down there for ten to 15 minutes.
“In all honesty, it was getting a bit boring because there was nothing coming out wide, but credit to the boys up front because I thought they dug deep and stuck to it.
“Being a man down [with skipper John Barclay in the sin bin at the time], it was terrific defence and for us to exit with them not scoring a point was tremendous. It just shows that the characters in the squad wanted to defend that line with everything.”
Cotter’s ban on the players talking about the fact it was the coach’s last game was loosened after the match and Hogg was quick to say that sending him off on a high note was in the players’ minds.
“Absolutely. He always says he doesn’t want it to be about him. For me, he has worked wonders for myself and for Scottish rugby and we thank him for absolutely everything he has done,” said the 24-year-old. “He will be missed. Montpellier are very lucky to have him and I wish him all the best.
“He instils confidence in each and every one of us. He wants us to go there and have some fun and you can see that on the boys’ faces. We are scoring tries and winning games and that’s what it’s all about.
“We will enjoy this win. It’s the last time the team will be together for a while because it’s back to Glasgow.”
Hogg wasn’t as surprised as some other observers to see Cotter wiping away a tear as he took the acclaim of the BT Murrayfield crowd after the final whistle. “Vern is a very passionate guy. “He has put everything into Scotland,” he said. “You can see how much it means to him. He has done a phenomenal job.
“Now Gregor [Townsend] is coming in and the Glasgow boys are very much aware of what he will bring. It is an exciting time for Scottish rugby.”
The icing on Hogg’s week was becoming the most capped product of the famous Hawick club as he took his tally to 53.
“I’m chuffed to bits with that. That’s where it all started for me,” he said. “I actually got a message from Jim Renwick this morning, which was really nice of him.
“He just said he was chuffed to see me break his record. I think it was him, Colin Deans and Tony Stanger all on 52. I’m chuffed with that.
“I believe if Jim Renwick played in the modern game he would have 100-plus caps. It is just the way things happen now.”