It’s strange to be booed at Murrayfield, admits Stuart Hogg

Scotland's Blair Kinghorn, left, with Stuart Hogg during the Six Nations match in Ireland. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Scotland's Blair Kinghorn, left, with Stuart Hogg during the Six Nations match in Ireland. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
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While there may be suspicions, particularly from Ulster fans this week, about just how fierce the Edinburgh-Glasgow rugby rivalry is, there are times when genuine needle bubbles to the surface.

Both are owned by the SRU, so many of the players involved spend large chunks of the year as international team-mates and, of course, the teams have been in existence as professional club entities for under 20 years. Despite the historic sounding name, the 1872 Cup, referring to the first inter-city match, was found in a cupboard in the 21st century, rebranded and this year marks the ten-year anniversary of its first contesting.

It can all seem a bit manufactured at times but Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill did his bit to stir the pot this week by insisting that his side were out to supplant Glasgow as the “favoured sons” of Scottish rugby.

Just over four years ago it was Scotland talisman Stuart Hogg who set the derby tone when he said “everyone hates Edinburgh” and that he didn’t even bother watching them on television.

The full-back breaks into a smile when reminded of the barb. “I was young,” joked the now 25-year-old.

There is no such incendiary comments this time but Hogg makes it clear that he and his Warriors team-mates are very much up for Saturday evening’s showdown at BT Murrayfield. Glasgow may have nothing at stake, having already booked a home semi-final in the Pro14 play-offs, and Hogg is glowing in his praise of Edinburgh’s improvement this season, but you get a sneaking suspicion that the Borderer wouldn’t shed a tear in the unlikely but not impossible event that a heavy Glasgow win scuppers the capital side’s play-off hopes.

“We have a lot of respect for Edinburgh and they have done incredibly well over the last few weeks,” said Hogg.

“We know how big a challenge it is going to be. They have some key players who have been going well over the last few weeks. We need to be on our A game defensively to shut these boys out.”

As ever in these matches, there are international head to heads across the pitch, with Hogg relishing coming up against his opposite number Blair Kinghorn. The 21-year-old Edinburgh full-back broke into the Scotland team in this year’s Six Nations, scoring a try in his first start, on the wing, against Ireland in Dublin.

Cockerill has suggested that his man may be a serious rival for Hogg’s dark blue No 15 jersey sooner rather than later and that is something the two-time Lions tourist welcomes.

“He [Kinghorn] is a great boy who works incredibly hard on his game,” said Hogg.

“You have seen over the last few years he has got better and better. He is keeping me on my toes. I have to work incredibly hard here to make sure I am still involved in Scotland stuff.

“I even have a battle here with Jacko [Ruaridh Jackson]. It has been a tough old season trying to get consistency in my game but I have boys keeping me on my toes and competition for places is huge. That is making me a better player and driving Blair on to become 
better as well.”

Any suggestion that Saturday’s game is meaningless as Glasgow build towards that semi-final is swiftly shot down by Hogg.

“[Saturday’s game] is hugely
important for us,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of dodgy performances of late on the road. It has been a bit frustrating but we know we are better than that. We know we are capable of beating anybody.

“It is about getting confidence back in our performances and consistency and taking every opportunity we get and put some points on the board.”

Hogg has grown used in recent years to being the 
darling of the Murrayfield crowd, regularly having 60,000 on their feet bellowing acclaim for his heroics in a Scotland jersey. Running out in the lighter blue of Glasgow provides a different experience.

“The vast majority of the Glasgow squad is involved with the Scotland squad,” said Hogg. “Technically we are away from home but for a lot of us it is a home game as well.

“I never thought I would be in a position to get booed at Murrayfield but it has happened a few times. The boys have played there before and the atmosphere is a bit strange but it is a cracking pitch to play on. The boys know it like the back of their hand now. This is not an away fixture by any means.”

Hogg missed the last 1872 trip to the national stadium in December after getting injured during the November Tests but still felt the pain as 14-man Edinburgh stunned Glasgow with a comeback win to end the Warriors’ unbeaten start to the Pro14 season.

“We look at every single game to win. Credit to them, I thought they were outstanding that day,” said Hogg.

“I was working for TV that day and I know exactly how well they performed. You have to make the most of opportunities that come your way and Edinburgh did exactly that.

“You look at the opportunities we scored off. The first five minutes of the game, Shuggie [Huw] Jones between the sticks. We have the players and the coaches here to make sure we perform and get a good win at the weekend.”