Scotland star Stuart Hogg believes Ireland’s loss to England at the weekend takes nothing away from the gargantuan task that awaits on Saturday when the wounded world No 2 side come to Edinburgh.
Ireland were toppled 32-20 by England at their Aviva Stadium fortress in Dublin at the weekend to cement the universal predictions that this year’s championship will be a ferocious contest.
Scotland took positives, and a perhaps necessary wake-up call, from a 33-20 win over Italy which had the sheen taken off it by the consolation of three late tries, but know that the real business begins on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a huge test for us here. Ireland are a world-class outfit individually and collectively,” said Hogg.
“We’ll have to be on the money in defence and make the most of our opportunities in attack. But the Six Nations is off to a good start and we’re excited to get going next week.”
Scotland will begin preparations for Saturday’s crunch today with head coach Gregor Townsend hopeful that wing Sean Maitland, lock Jonny Gray and centre Peter Horne will be back in consideration. Results were being awaited on the scan of Sam Skinner’s ankle after the Exeter Chiefs forward hobbled off early in Saturday’s game, although the expectation is he faces weeks out. There are also concerns over tighthead prop WP Nel, who came off early in the
second half with a tight calf.
The return of Maitland would present a selection head-scratcher for Townsend after his stand-in, Blair Kinghorn, took man-of-the-match honours with the first
Six Nations hat-trick by a
Hogg, meanwhile, drew level
fourth-equal with his Glasgow team-mate Tommy Seymour on Scotland’s all-time try scorers list with his 19th Test touchdown in the second half of Saturday’s match for his team’s third of five in a bonus-point start.
It was possibly the flimsiest of touches of the 19, as the finger-tip glance on the end of Finn Russell’s grubber was confirmed by the TMO, but Hogg was adamant that it was as bona fide as the other 18.
“I got enough force on that ball, put it that way. A wee bit lucky but we’ll take it. I was very sure,” said the full-back.
Hogg certainly celebrated immediately with conviction and added with a smile: “I can’t give away my tactics but I scored it and I knew I did.”
There was less fortune to come for Hogg later when what would, if given, have gone down in Townsend’s opinion as one of the greatest ever seen at Murrayfield was chalked off by English referee Luke Pearce, pictured, for illegal blocking.
Hogg collected in his own half, speared the Italian defence then arced around with searing pace to touch down in the corner, oblivious to the whistle which came for what, on reflection, was actually an off-the-ball barge by an Italian on Scotland’s sub scrum-half Ali Price.
“To be fair to Luke Pearce, he came up after the game and apologised, said he made a mistake,” revealed Hogg.
“These little things, if you were the referee you would maybe let it play out, then go back and check it. I was fairly happy with the way I finished it. But it didn’t count.
“It was a little bit frustrating because I think that would have taken us to 40 points with a conversion, them on ten or something – so it would have made it dead and buried.
“Look, it’s the fine margins, it hasn’t been given, so we move on. He apologised. He is man enough to admit his mistake. Fair play to him.”