SCOTLAND full-back Stuart Hogg has hinted that he would prefer to see Scott Johnson resist calls for him to move into the midfield for this week’s clash with Italy.
Hogg was the Scots’ top performer at Twickenham as they kicked off their RBS Six Nations campaign with a 38-18 defeat by England.
Despite the margin, there were areas of consolation for the losers. The display by the Glasgow back was the most reassuring aspect as Hogg set up Sean Maitland’s opening try before adding a late touchdown himself. But the occasions when he could get on the ball were frustratingly seldom and former Scotland stand-off Craig Chalmers has already appealed to Johnson to push the 20-year-old up to outside centre in a bid to get him involved more often. Hogg insisted he would play anywhere he is asked but suggested that he would prefer to stay where he is.
He said: “I enjoyed playing my part against England but it is a team game after all. I’m just honoured to be a part of that team. Hopefully I’ll be in the team again for the Italy game when it gets named [today]. Wherever I’m played, I’m just happy to get a jersey.
“I enjoy being at 15. I get plenty of space there that I can utilise for my kicking game, or I can use my passing game and, as you saw at the weekend, my running game. I’ll speak to the coaches and see what they want from me. It’s down to them after all.”
Johnson did not hold back with his criticisms of a team that failed to get to grips with England’s powerful pack at the breakdowns. Those words stung a deflated Scotland squad determined to end a 30-year wait for a victory on English soil.
Hogg admits the harsh tones of Johnson’s assessment were merited but insists they have not pierced the side’s fragile morale ahead of the Murrayfield meeting with the Italians on Sunday. “We are all disappointed with the loss against England,” he said. “But we have to move on. We have Italy coming up on Saturday, so we have drawn a line under the game at Twickenham and are focused on the game ahead.” Italy’s self-belief is soaring following their incredible victory over France on Sunday. The 23-18 triumph in Rome is the latest proof of their maturing style of play and Hogg admits they are no longer the minnows of the championship.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said. “Italy is a tough place to go. We were trounced there last season, unfortunately.
“With a team like France it is tough. But you always get the occasional French team that travels away from home and you have to ask: ‘Is this a full-strength squad? Are they going to turn up? Is their attitude right? But Italy utilised their game really well and played to their strengths.They are a good side now who deserve their place in the Six Nations.”