AFTER all the will he, won’t he brouhaha of Stuart Hogg’s flirtation with Ulster Rugby at the tail end of last season the Scotland and Lions full-back decided to stick with the devil he knows best and re-sign with Glasgow Warriors for another three years at least.
Hogg, still only 22, declared himself happy to stay in Scotland, even if Glasgow is somewhat removed from his hometown of Hawick.
“There is a great group of people around the club and I’ve settled really well in Glasgow,” he said. “The Warriors has been a big part of my life over the last five years and I’ve seen the club grow during that time.
“I want to be the best rugby player I possibly can be and I believe at Glasgow I’ve got the right coaches and players around me to help me along the way. I’m really happy to be staying and I’d like to thank the club and Scottish Rugby for this new contract.”
At the height of the flirtation with Ulster, Hogg was spotted in a Belfast Hotel with David Humphreys, the then-director of rugby for Ulster. Glasgow boss Gregor Townsend always insisted that his starting full-back would remain a Glasgow player. He was vindicated by yesterday’s announcement.
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“He came back in the summer full of enthusiasm, worked really hard, enjoyed being here and said to us that he doesn’t want to leave this club,” said Townsend. “That was really positive and it formed the basis of negotiations and it’s great that we have secured him for two years. He is working hard at being the best player he can be and being the best team-mate he can be and we are certainly seeing that through his displays for us.”
Townsend admitted he himself endured the worst season of his professional career following his appearance in the 1997 Lions test team and suggested Hogg may have been suffering a hangover for similar reasons. The coach also made mention of the fact the club have assigned a senior figure to act as mentor to their talented full-back, who seems to have worked wonders with Hogg’s psyche, but he didn’t want to mention names until the player had been given the chance to do so. So did the coach have to use his powers of persuasion or even the thumb screws to secure the signature?
“Not this season no, he’s very keen to stay,” replied Townsend. “At the end of last season things weren’t as…”, Townsend pauses to find the right word, “… rosy with Stuart and the time away in the summer playing for Scotland and then playing in the Commonwealth Games and then having that break has put things into perspective and he is 100 per cent committed to being the best player he can be but also to doing all he can for the club.”
Townsend was underlining Hogg’s commitment to the Glasgow Warriors because it has come under the microscope in the past. Not least when the full-back, with two tries in his back pocket, berated Niko Matawalu on the field after the little Fijian “stole” Hogg’s hat-trick try by beating him to the ball in Glasgow’s 54-0 victory over Zebre last season at Scotstoun.
The Lions’ full-back played no part in Glasgow’s post-season matches, missing out on that famous semi-final victory over Munster and the Dublin final.
News of Hogg’s signing was issued in tandem with that of Lee Jones, the winger deemed surplus to requirements at Edinburgh despite earning four international caps for Scotland.
Jones initially joined Glasgow on loan last season before he was offered a one-year deal. That has been extended to three years, the winger having done enough to persuade Gregor Townsend of his abilities. He is to continue playing for the national sevens squad until the end of this season but revert full time to the 15-man game for next season.
The Glasgow boss backed Jones to the hilt and insisted he could be back in Scotland colours soon, adding: “Lee is the ultimate professional and playing the best rugby of his life”.
Making Edinburgh’s decision to release him all the stranger.
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