Rory Darge reflects on Stuart Hogg's retirement and his own Scotland situation

Rory Darge during a Scotland Rugby training session at the Hive Stadium on Friday.Rory Darge during a Scotland Rugby training session at the Hive Stadium on Friday.
Rory Darge during a Scotland Rugby training session at the Hive Stadium on Friday.
Having grown up watching Stuart Hogg taking on all-comers in the Scotland No 15 jersey, Rory Darge fully recognises that the former captain’s abrupt retirement last Sunday represented the end of an era.

But he also understands that the rabbit wheel keeps turning in international sport, and with a World Cup looming over the horizon there is no time for sentimentality.

“I was 12 years old when he made his international debut back in 2012, so it is weird for me because as far back as I can remember watching Scotland playing, he was there,” reflected the 23-year-old flanker. “Then he was captain of the side when I first came into the camp as an apprentice player back in 2020, so he's a huge character and everyone is gutted he's not going to be involved this Autumn.

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“He is such a legend who has done so much for the jersey, and he would have loved a send-off at the World Cup I am sure, but sometimes things don’t work out like that. And one guy’s misfortune tends to be another guy’s good luck, so I am sure boys will step up and take the opportunity his retirement creates. I’m sure it is the case for a lot of people that they wouldn’t have got their chance if it wasn’t for an injury to someone else. It was Jamie Ritchie getting injured that gave me the chance to make my debut.”

Stuart Hogg called time on his rugby career last weekend.Stuart Hogg called time on his rugby career last weekend.
Stuart Hogg called time on his rugby career last weekend.

Darge is one of seven back-rowers currently competing for five or maybe six spots in Gregor Townsend’s final 33-man squad to travel to France in just under two months’ time. The other contenders are captain Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fageron, Jack Dempsey, Luke Crosbie and late call-up Josh Bayliss. It will be a big surprise if the Glasgow Warriors openside doesn’t make the cut given the razor-sharp form he has shown when fit during the last two seasons, but he is taking nothing for granted – which is sensible given how unlucky he has been on the injury front.

“The chance to go to a World Cup would be special, but it is so competitive in the back-row and we don’t know who is going to go, so I am just working hard and doing the best I can to get there,” Darge said. “I think it’s mainly camaraderie amongst the back-rowers in the squad at the moment,” he added. “We’re all based in Scotland apart from Josh, so we play against each other a lot, and we’re pretty used to each other. But it is a weird feeling because you work so hard with each other – help each other a lot with skills and all that – then at the end of the day you are competing against each other.

“I’m sure it will get a bit more tense when it gets closer to the final squad being named, but at the moment we are all in the same boat preparing for our first warm-up match against Italy in two weeks’ time. I’m feeling good at the moment, but I’ve got used to having injuries during the last couple of seasons with my knee then more recently my ankle, so I’m not taking anything for granted.

“The silver-lining to those injuries was that while the rehab was brutal at the time, I am a bit fresher now than I might have been if I had played all last season. We have this week coming then we’re into a game week, so it’ll be more rugby specific stuff coming up and what works for me best is focusing on weekends and the next game – and not looking too far ahead.”