Stuart Hogg was Scotland’s Lions banker but even he didn’t know he would be on that plane to New Zealand until, like everyone else, he heard his name read out by chairman John Spencer at yesterday’s noon announcement in London.
What followed could actually have jeopardised his place on that plane as the full-back revealed he almost pulled a hamstring by leaping around in delight at the confirmation he would be making his second British and Irish Lions tour at the age of 24.
“I was undecided whether to watch the announcement or not but this time I decided to watch it,” he said at BT Murrayfield yesterday a couple of hours after he and Glasgow team-mate Tommy Seymour were inked in as Scotland’s only two selections on the summer tour.
“I was sitting on the couch with my wife and [new-born daughter] little Olivia. My son was sleeping in the other room but I think I woke him when I heard my name and was jumping about.
“I’ve now got a sore jaw from all of the smiling I’ve been doing since the announcement.”
The Hawick man toured Australia as a 20-year-old youngster four years ago, when he was also deployed as a midweek stand-off, but the back-to-back Six Nations player of the championship is adamant that this time around he is solely focused on claiming that red No 15 Test jersey.
“That’s the goal now, I’ve become a better player since being part of the last Lions tour,” said Hogg. “Here’s hoping I can get a bit of game time and show what I’ve got and I’ll be doing all I can to make that happen. The level of professionalism goes up another notch. The biggest thing I learned from the last tour is the need to be professional 24/7. I certainly wasn’t that going into the last tour but I believe I am now.
“I think I’ve matured over the last few years.”
Ireland’s Rob Kearney misses out so it looks like being a battle with Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny, pictured, for that Test spot, although the likes of Liam Williams, Jared Payne and Anthony Watson can also cover full-back from the wings and centre.
Hogg is clearly driven to take that next step and test himself against the All Blacks in the meat of the tour but, for the moment, was simply enjoying the fact he had made the squad which, for all its likelihood, was not an absolute certainty.
“I was the exact same as every other player. There are people saying you’re going, people saying you’re not going. The final squad was announced at 12 and we found out then,” he explained.
“You never take anything for granted, whether that’s at Glasgow, with Scotland or for the Lions. You take nothing for granted.
“I’m just hugely excited to hear my name. I probably pulled a hammy in the process, jumping about like a clown! I’m so happy to be going.”
Hogg admitted he was disappointed that only two Scots had made it, with clubmates Jonny Gray and Finn Russell left disappointed, but seemed almost more happy for his Warriors pal, Seymour, whom he drove through from Glasgow to face the media at Murrayfield.
“I would obviously have loved to have seen other boys going. But you’ve got to look at the squad – and the pressure Warren Gatland has been under to pick it,” said Hogg. “I wouldn’t like to do it, that’s for sure. But I think the fact that me and Tommy are going is down to our team-mates, whether that’s at Glasgow or Scotland. At Glasgow, we’ve been chasing trophies for the past five years and, with Scotland, we’re ever improving. The fact that the ball gets out wide makes us look good. All our team-mates are getting us into good positions.
“Obviously, I would have loved to have seen other boys joining us – and I think there are a few boys who just missed out. But it’s tough to pick a squad.
“I went to pick Tommy up. He was in a coffee shop with Richie Vernon, Finn Russell, Ryan Wilson and Ali Price so it was good to see them.
“Finn was fine. He was just chuffed to bits for myself and Tommy. That just shows you what Finn is like, he was happy to see us going.
“Finn, along with a few others, are just unlucky to miss out. But there is still plenty of time, still plenty of games to be played. So I think you could see a few more. After speaking to a few guys over the last Lions tour, there are always injuries. Here’s hoping we can keep a solid squad – but also that a couple of more Scottish boys get in.”