Dave Rennie’s approval validates Stuart Hogg’s Euro ambition

Stuart Hogg, fifth from left, attended yesterday's launch of the European Champions Cup. Picture: Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Stuart Hogg, fifth from left, attended yesterday's launch of the European Champions Cup. Picture: Sportsfile via Getty Images)
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It is not hard to see why club physios must dread the days when Stuart Hogg gets injured. His enthusiasm bubbles through so fiercely that it must be a nightmare to keep a lid on it and make sure he does nothing that will slow his own recovery.

To be fair, he understands that – but still can struggle to keep himself in check. He is just desperate to play as soon as possible.

So if the authority for the idea that he might be back for the European games had been anybody other than Dave Rennie, the club head coach, then it would be tempting to write his hopes off as another example of enthusiasm trumping reality.

Yet, Rennie, pictured, was the one who suggested that after surgery which was initially seen as a threat to Hogg’s Scotland spot in November, the player was making such rapid progress that Europe was a firm possibility. So the Euro ambitions are real and the test really is make or break.

It would, however, be something of a gamble to throw him in at the deep end after four months out of action. No problem. If Rennie asks him to play against Exeter, the tournament opener, or Leinster, the first home game, that is fine by Hogg; if he asks him to play a BT Premiership game to test himself before taking on the best in Europe, that is fine too.

“Whatever Dave [Rennie] wants me to do, I just want to be back playing rugby,” was Hogg’s reaction. “If he wants me to pay for Ayr, I am more than happy to go and play. I just want to be out on that pitch with a ball in my hands.”

The key thing for him is to be out there in Glasgow colours as soon as possible still performing at the level that made him the RBS Six Nations Championship player of the season earlier this year and earned him a spot on the Lions tour of New Zealand.

That, we all know, ended prematurely when he collided with Conor Murray’s elbow, fractured his cheekbone and had to head home.

It might have been a cause for resentment; in fact it is the opposite. “We have been in touch a fair bit – I hate the fact that everyone keeps going on about it,” said Hogg. “It is Conor I feel sorry for. He was the one who injured me but these things happen – hopefully I can avoid his left elbow from now on.”

That was followed by the surgery on his shoulder to treat a long-standing problem that had been growing all season. “I had a target of finishing the season for Glasgow in the best shape I could and then trying to get on a tour at the end of the season,” he recalled.

“I worked closely with the coaching staff and the physios as well. It was a case of getting it cleaned up when we could. I did not like to start a season with an injury, you never know what might happen.”

Since then it has been mostly just the graft of trying to strengthen and rebuild the muscles damaged in the operation, with the European target – he was speaking at the launch of the European Champions Cup in Dublin – an increasing focus.

One reason for that determination is that everyone at the club, including Hogg, got a taste for European knockout action last season and he is determined to do everything he can to sample the same heady feeling again.

“Everyone who was involved in Europe last year got a feel for success,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can to get back to that place. The experience of getting to the quarters should stand us in good stead, but we are only looking as far as the first challenge, which is against Exeter.

“There are massive challenges but this is why you play. These games can get to Test-match intensity and it will be the highest level a lot of boys will play. To be the best you have to beat the best. We want to be in a position where we are looking to win trophies, but it is a long way away.”