When Stuart Hogg takes to the field at Twickenham today he’ll be joining Jim Renwick, Colin Deans and Tony Stanger by equalling Hawick’s club record of 52 Scotland caps.
Barring an injury jinx, the Glasgow full-back will overtake the famous trio from his home town against Italy next week. But regardless of the numbers, Renwick, whose 51st cap came when Scotland last won at Twickenham in 1983, believes Hogg is already well on his way to becoming the greatest player Hawick has ever produced.
“I think he will probably go on to be the best we’ve seen from Hawick,” says Renwick, who has known Hogg since birth and watched him advance through the ranks in the Borders town. “Colin Deans would be my favourite up to now, but it looks as if Stuart will go on and do more. He’ll go on the Lions tour and there’s much more to come from him. He’s only 24.
“The great thing about Stuart is that he has handled it at every level he has played at. He is comfortable at the top level. It’s a case of keeping his feet on the ground and getting as many caps as he can and keep playing. I don’t know how long they last now. I lasted 12 seasons for my 52 caps, but pros tend to last about 10 years now. There comes a burnout stage, I suppose. But he’s young and you get your exceptional players like your Richie McCaws and these boys, so there’s no reason why he can’t go on and get plenty of caps.”
Renwick also dismisses the critics who have pinpointed tackling as a weakness in Hogg’s game which England could exploit this afternoon.
“I think he’s a good tackler,” he says. “Full-backs get the hardest tackles to make – the one-on-ones and people coming through at a rate of knots. They’re hard tackles. If a middle row misses a tackle it’s not as big a deal. When a full-back misses one in open play it is normally a try. That’s when it is noticed. He’s a safe tackler. He’s good under high balls and he’s got a good all-round game.”
With Hogg in the side and confidence flowing through the squad, Renwick believes Scotland’s prospects of beating the English on their own patch could not be better.
“Hopefully we can stay in the game as long as we can,” he says. “They’ll want to get lineouts, maul us and drive us. The weather forecast is good, because wet conditions would have suited them better. If we can stop that and keep the tempo high that will suit us. We have a chance.”
Now 65, Renwick played, alongside Hawick clubmate Deans when the Scots last won at Twickenham in 1983. Roy Laidlaw and Tom Smith scored the tries and the boot of full-back Peter Dods secured a memorable 22-12 victory.
“Thirty four years is too long,” Renwick reflects. “It was nice to beat the English down there. It was a pretty tight game in the first half, ending 9-9. What we did after that was keep the pressure on England. Roy scored and Dodsy and myself decided to put high balls up on the England full-back Dusty Hare. Keith Robertson dropped a goal from a scrum in front of the posts and Tom drove over from a lineout to win us the game.”
It was the penultimate international for Renwick, a player fondly remembered as a bald, moustached jinking wizard and still widely regarded as one of the greatest centres to wear the dark blue jersey.
The post-match parties in those pre-professional days were epic occasions, and Renwick remembers lapping up the celebrations in a Charing Cross hotel which carried on through the night as the Scots ran up the England captain’s bar tab.
“We were still going when it was daylight,” he recalls. “It was a good night, I’ll tell you. I don’t suppose the professionals would do that now.”