'˜I knew Stuart Hogg would be a star' says Chris Paterson
Former Scotland full-back Chris Paterson remembers the day a teenager by the name of Stuart Hogg ran rings around him in a game of touch rugby and thinking, 'this kid could be a star'.
Fast forward eight years and full-back Hogg will earn his 50th cap for Scotland, aged just 24, when he runs out at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday afternoon for the Six Nations match with France.
And Paterson, who won 109 caps for his country between 1999 and 2011, believes Hogg has a bright future ahead of him.
The 38-year-old said: “I first became aware of Stuart Hogg when he was around 16 or 17 years of age and he was on the rugby course run by Richie Gray [now a member of the Scotland coaching team] at the Borders College.
“We were playing a game of touch rugby on my visit there and this nippy little youngster, with a bit to say for himself, shot by me and showed incredible footwork.
“At first, it was quite funny, but, when he kept doing it, I thought, ‘this guy is some player’.
“We then had a kicking competition and, boy, could this young guy kick the ball far.
“I said to Richie straight away, ‘who is this young kid?’ and Richie smiled and said, ‘we have high hopes for him, as you have just seen he has some talent’.
“After that day I always kept an eye on how Stuart was doing and it didn’t surprise me when he started to get tongues wagging with his performances for Hawick YM and Hawick on the Kings of the Sevens circuit.
“Everywhere you went in the Borders at that time people would stop and ask you about this young guy.
“It was clear that he had something different, that X factor that everyone talks about and craves, but very rarely finds.”
It was in 2009 when Hogg came to the attention of the wider rugby audience in the local sevens events. He was soon turning out for Scotland at age-grade level and was signed up by Glasgow Warriors. A debut came for the professional side at the age of just 19 in early 2011 and then, a year later, he scored an amazing try on his Scotland A debut in a win over the England Saxons at Netherdale.
Paterson, pictured, said: “Stuart picked up the ball some 60 metres out in that one and seemed to go past the whole England team for his try and the place went crazy.
“That is when people knew that he had the temperament and the skill to go well at the top level and from then until now it has been great to watch him become the player he is today.
“Through my work with Scottish Rugby, I have been lucky enough to work with him at various times over the last few years and what strikes me most about him is his willingness to keep on learning.
“Some young players who climb the levels quickly can rest on their laurels and perhaps stop working as hard, but I have never seen that with Stuart.
“He is always working hard and trying to get the edge on opponents while he is not scared to ask questions to the coaches around him to help him improve.”
Hogg’s first full cap for his country came in the 2012 Six Nations off the bench against Wales.
He came on early for Max Evans in a 27-13 defeat and has started 48 Tests since then, bagging 15 tries in the process.
At the weekend, he was back in Hawick on Sunday and took time out of his day with family to have photos taken with local youngsters who were kicking a rugby ball about in the park.
“What is so good about him is that he has stayed grounded and is a great role model to youngsters who are coming into the game now,” Paterson said.
“He can often be seen back down in Hawick watching the first XV or the local youth teams play and that is an inspiration to others.
“He has a good family around him and is grounded and he is just a very exciting player to watch – the kind you would pay to see play – and he gets crowds cheering and excited, which, at the end of the day, is what it is all about.
“The way he sees space to kick into or a gap to run into is special and there is no doubt that he can be the main man for Scotland going forward for a number of years.
“To see the way young guys like him, Finn Russell and Jonny Gray handle themselves and play on the big stage is just excellent.”
Many feel that Hogg is already a certainty to be the British & Irish Lions starting No 15 in the Tests in New Zealand this summer.
Paterson said: “Certainly, if he keeps going the way he is, then Stuart has got to be firmly in Warren Gatland’s thoughts for that spot and to go on a second Lions tour at his age would be quite something.
“He is a much-improved player since the 2013 Australia trip, but that experience will have been good for him.”