Glasgow coach Dave Rennie revealed yesterday that star full-back Stuart Hogg is a coiled spring ahead of this evening’s Guinness Pro14 final against Leinster as he looks to end his nine-year Warriors career in glorious fashion at Celtic Park.
The 26-year-old Borderer makes his big move to English Premiership side Exeter Chiefs after the World Cup and Rennie is in no doubt that the two-time Lions tourist is fired up for the clash with the defending champions from Ireland.
“We tried to put the brakes on him today,” said Rennie after yesterday’s captain’s run training session at Celtic Park. “He went berserk yesterday [Thursday] at training. Massive high-speed numbers.
“He’s seen that the field is a little bit shorter [than Scotstoun] so he was lining up some kicks from the opposition 22-metre line type of thing! He’s an excitement machine. He’s desperate to go out on a big note and all we need him to do is to play as well as he has in the last few weeks and hopefully it’s enough.”
The Kiwi coach admitted it would be a fitting end to a time at the club which has seen Hogg rise to be not only a star of Scottish rugby but of the national sporting landscape.
“It would be brilliant for him,” said Rennie of the two-time Six Nations player of the tournament. “It’s as much about the environment, the occasion, and the quality of the opposition too. They [Leinster] are a massive powerhouse in European rugby, they won the title last year and they’re going to be tough to roll. It’s that we’re at home and we’ve got plenty to play for as well as Hoggy leaving. I expect to see the boys front.
“He has been training well. The usual Hoggy to me. Hopefully he can go well. We acknowledged he was leaving after our last [regular season] game against Edinburgh at home. Then after the win last week [over Ulster in the semi-final at Scotstoun] we spoke about it as a team. Everybody knows it is Hoggy’s last game and he is looking to do the right thing for the team. If he sticks to what we have been doing in training I am sure he will do well.”
Asked if he had found himself having to keep a lid on the “excitement machine”, Rennie gave a wry smile. “I’m constantly having a word with him,” he said. “He’s excitable at the best of times, but it’s infectious. He is tough on himself. The biggest thing is that when Hoggy makes a mistake he beats himself up a bit. He understands the importance he has for us so he wants to perform well and there couldn’t be a better occasion for him.”
Rennie has named an unchanged starting team from the one that thrashed Ulster 50-20 last Friday, with the inclusion of prop Siua Halanukonuka on the bench the only squad change as Glasgow look to add a second title to the one they secured under Gregor Townsend in 2015.
Rennie knows full well how big a deal this evening is for the club he joined from Waikato Chiefs two years ago. In a football-mad city it provides an exposure not often enjoyed by a group of sportsmen who have built an impressive fanbase at Scotstoun but still can’t approach the fame of Old Firm footballers.
As ticket sales inch closer to the record final crowd of 46,092 from Leinster’s triumph at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin 12 months ago, and potentially on to nudge the 50,000 mark, Rennie is anticipating a fabulous occasion.
“It’s great, isn’t it,” he said. “The council have got behind the concept. I know [Warriors managing director] Nathan Bombrys and Scottish Rugby have done a lot of work to make it happen here.
“Maybe it can be a bit of a blessing being in Glasgow with such a football focus that we can walk around with no-one having a clue who we are. So to be able to stage a massive game here is special and we’re rapt that we can be a part of it.”
Asked if he thought his players might quite like to get closer to footballer levels of fame, the Kiwi said: “I don’t think so. They are a down to earth group of men. I have been impressed by them and I have only been here a couple of years.
“I think we have chosen wisely and brought in some key people. They are a humble group, they work hard. I have no doubts some individuals would love to have their own TV show at some stage! Look, they are an impressive bunch of men, very team orientated and have what it takes to get a result.”