Stuart Hogg has credited Gregor Townsend for helping him shed his “class clown” image as he prepares to captain Scotland for the first time.
The Glasgow Warriors full-back, who will lead out his country against the United States in Houston tonight, admitted his relationship with the national coach could have been very different.
Four years ago Hogg was on the brink of leaving the Warriors for Ulster. Townsend was coach of Glasgow at the time and had the player gone through with what he now sees as an ill-advised move, Hogg believes his career may well have taken a different, less rewarding path.
“In terms of the relationship, we [Hogg and Townsend] probably wouldn’t have one if I had moved away,” he added. “I would probably have burnt all the bridges with Gregor I possibly could, and would I be sitting here? Probably not.
“For a start, if I had been at Ulster, we would have been beaten in the [2015 Pro12] semi-final by Glasgow and I would have had to watch Glasgow lift the trophy on our home ground. Everybody makes mistakes. I was young. I was getting pushed to go there and I’m glad I didn’t. We had a cracking season with Glasgow the year after, won the league and [I’ve] very much enjoyed my rugby since then.”
Hogg has credited the honour of being named Scotland captain for helping him develop as a leader. The 25-year-old thanked the head coach for keeping faith with him when relations between the two were strained.
“To have this added responsibility is really keeping me on my toes and has made me adapt to my week,” Hogg said.
“At times I’d be the kind of class clown, jumping around and trying to scare everybody, but this week I’ve taken a little step back from that and tried to be as sensible as I possibly can.”
The skipper has cautioned his players not to take beating the United States for granted.
“They have some incredible individual players and are playing well as a team,” said Hogg, the only member of the starting XV who faced the same opponents at the BBVA Compass Stadium four years ago, when the Scots had to work hard for a 24-6 triumph.
“We have to be on the money in defence because they have some very good ball carriers and an elusive back three that are very good. We want to take our opportunities in attack.”