Stuart Hogg retirement: Scotland star 'is once-in-a-generation' talent as Mike Blair leads tributes
The Edinburgh coach was playing for the national team when Hogg made his debut off the bench back in 2012. And Blair went on to play alongside the Hawick man at Glasgow, before coaching him as an assistant with both the Warriors and Scotland.
“I have seen the guy in every guise,” Blair said. “He is a once-in-a-generation talent. You could see in his first game for Scotland the confidence he had and the ability he had.
“He was definitely passionate and competitive. He was really keen for Scotland to win, and understood what it meant to the country and what it meant to his family. He talked a lot about his mum and dad and brother who helped give him the opportunity to go out and play. And yeah, he is a pretty special player.”
Asked if he was surprised by Hogg’s announcement, Blair added: “I was aware this might be on the horizon. It is clearly something he has not taken lightly, this decision. He has had a brilliant career and I would imagine he could play for another few years but maybe he is starting to feel his body a bit.”
Hogg took over as national skipper from Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally after the 2019 World Cup, and Blair, who was an assistant coach to Gregor Townsend until taking up his present post in the summer of 2021, recalled him making a positive impact. “He was really focused and led from the front and he was really engaged with the team and the nation. It was a positive time, that first impression he had, from doing that job.”
McInally himself also praised Hogg yesterday, saying: “Hoggy’s biggest strength has always been the way he’s played. He’s always led by example. I always felt that’s been his strongest leadership - the way he’s performed over the years.
“He’s had 99 starts from 100 caps - I don’t know if that will ever happen again. That’s really, really impressive.”
Another former Scotland captain, Grant Gilchrist, summed up Hogg’s contribution succinctly. “He’s been a legend of Scottish rugby,” the Edinburgh lock said. “The tries he’s scored, the impact he’s had on the team, speaks for itself.”
Blair and his two senior players were speaking after a training session as Edinburgh continued preparations for Friday night's Champions Cup last-16 tie at Leicester. The coach confirmed that four players who were rested at the weekend - Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman, Hamish Watson and Duhan van der Merwe - will all be available for selection against the Tigers.
Edinburgh’s season now hinges on the one-off tie after their last hopes of a URC play-off spot were extinguished by their 41-26 loss to Connacht three days ago, and Blair expects the returning stars to make a big impact. “It will be great to have those guys back,” he added.
“We’re going to be able to get a really strong team out - one that involves international players who have done really well during the Six Nations. We want them to come back and take a grasp of the game, show why they’re Scotland’s leading international players and show them doing it for the jersey, for Edinburgh.”