Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg could go into the Six Nations with just one game under his belt after it emerged it was touch and go as to whether he would make his Glasgow comeback against Leinster on Sunday.
The back-to-back Six Nations player of the tournament has not seen action since injuring his hip during the close defeat to world champions New Zealand in November.
The 25-year-old was selected to face Australia the following week but pulled out minutes before kick-off after aggravating the problem during the warm-up.
Hogg offers Scotland that touch of stardust and will be key to hopes of challenging for a first-ever Six Nations title and first championship since 1999. He could be selected for the European Champions Cup pool match in the Irish capital but Glasgow forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys admitted he may have to wait until next weekend’s home game against Exeter Chiefs.
That is the last fixture before Scotland open their campaign against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday 3 February.
“I think we’re going to leave that one late,” Humphreys
said when asked if Hogg was available for Sunday. “We won’t make a decision until probably Friday on that. We obviously don’t want to take a risk so if he’s right he’ll play, and if not he won’t.
“He’s making good progress. I think he should be right, if not this weekend then hopefully next week – so, it’s close.
“We are desperately keen to get him back. Scotland are
desperately keen to have him playing in the Six Nations. So every caution will be taken with him.”
Humphreys said national head coach Gregor Townsend will be in close contact with Glasgow counterpart Dave Rennie about the full-back’s readiness to return.
“Dave and Gregor talk a lot; they have a good relationship. But we will do what is best for Hoggy.”
Humphreys said that centre Alex Dunbar, who has been out with a knee problem, is in the same “if not this week then hopefully next” boat.
Glasgow’s European campaign is over after four straight losses in Pool 3 but, while internationals Finn Russell and Jonny Gray are set to be rested, Humphreys is adamant that the Warriors will put out a strong team that will fight for pride against the pool pacesetters.
“We are limited with some injuries but we still feel that, regardless of that, we are putting out a really competitive team,” he said. “There are players who want to prove a point, there are players who have already played particularly well for us, so we’ll go there with a solid side. They [Leinster and Exeter] are probably the two best teams you can come up against in the competition so there is a lot for us to work on and a lot for us to improve.”
Former Welsh hooker Humphreys, who was Scotland’s pack chief until joining Dave Rennie’s team in the summer, praised 23-year-old tighthead D’Arcy Rae, who could be named in Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad on Tuesday to help with the front-row shortage, while acknowledging the youngster has lots of room for improvement.
“D’Arcy has got lots of good qualities. He knows that there’s parts of his game he’s got to work on,” said Humphreys. “He hasn’t had a huge amount of game time. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks he’s going to get that – but there are aspects of his game which are very, very good.
“It’s tough when you are trying to get up to speed but potentially he’s very good. The strong parts of his game are set-piece – he’s excellent at lineout and scrum – there are a few little things outside that which he is working on at present, and hopefully that will make him the complete prop.”