YOUNGSTER Stuart Hogg has been backed to make a success of his role in the British and Irish Lions No 10 shirt.
With Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell both kept out of the firing line against this morning’s latest tour opponents – a Combined Country XV – Scotland full-back Hogg will play at first receiver. Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell has no doubt the 20-year-old can shine.
“Just watching the kid in training today, it was his first run and he was dictating to the boys on his inside and outside,” Farrell said. “He has been great. He is doing what a fly-half should do – dictating and putting them in the right place. He understands the gameplan and he’s got an X factor as well. He’s got a long kicking game, he’s good at kicking at posts in training, and his passing game and running game is exceptional. He has to make sure he brings his natural game to the party.
“If you understand what he’s about and what his make-up is, he wants to get in there at first receiver and organise. That is what he naturally does, and people who have coached him more than most would tell you exactly the same. It is exciting for him and it’s exciting for us. I think he is going to do a great job.”
There will also be a start for Alex Corbisiero, who arrived in Australia two days ago from England’s Argentina tour. Fellow front-row replacement Ryan Grant is on bench duty, with injured Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins having flown home. Farrell believes Corbisiero and Grant will slot in comfortably.
“Some of these boys have been together for five weeks now and some have been here (in Australia) for three,” Farrell added. “A lot of water goes under the bridge and there are a lot of things you keep on adding and moving on with. They have had their first training session today, and it’s as though they’ve been here for a week or two at least. There has been a lot of of homework. They are working very hard, they will be fine.”
Wing Tommy Bowe, meanwhile, who underwent surgery on his hand yesterday, remains with the squad. It is hoped he can regain full fitness in time for the Test series against Australia. Ireland colleague Simon Zebo, is due to arrive as cover, though, and he should be a spectator in Newcastle tomorrow following a flight from Texas, where he played for Ireland against the US Eagles on Saturday.
“Tommy is coming down off morphine now and he’s getting his head back together,” Farrell said. “He will be in a heavy bandage/plaster for a couple of days. He will then put it in a lighter splint to try and get the wound to heal as quick as possible, making sure there is no infection. Then he should be fine. The medics will keep assessing him, but it still could be a couple of weeks.”