Stuart Hogg defuses tension ahead of explosive Calcutta Cup clash

After a week in which the language out of both camps ahead of today’s Calcutta Cup clash became a bit heated with words like “war” and “hate” being bandied about, Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg chose to take a statesmanlike path.

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg passes the ball during the captain's run at BT Murrayfield ahead of the Calcutta Cup showdown with England on Saturday. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images
Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg passes the ball during the captain's run at BT Murrayfield ahead of the Calcutta Cup showdown with England on Saturday. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

There was a time many moons ago when a youthful Hogg got in hot water for saying “everybody hates Edinburgh” ahead of an 1872 Cup game but yesterday in the Scottish capital as he faced media from both countries after yesterday’s final team run at the national stadium the more mature and measured 27-year-old was not about to fall into any traps.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’ve got a lot of respect for England,” said the full-back, pictured inset. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a few of their boys on Lions tours and they’re world class.

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“We want an opportunity to turn them over. I fully believe in our team, that we can do that and we’ll do everything in our power. But they’re a world-class team with world-class individuals we’re going to have to shut down.

“My job is to make sure I’m concentrating on getting my performance spot on but also making sure the team is switched on and we’re here for the right reasons, not listening to what others have got to say.

“We’re concentrating on what happens within the four walls of our changing room and making sure we are focused and ready.” Of course, now that Hogg and his family have made their home in England’s deep south following his switch to Exeter Chiefs from Glasgow, a move to defuse rather than reignite the verbals was a wise move.

“I’m fortunate to play for an excellent team in Exeter Chiefs – and they’ve got some of the best internationals involved in the team.

“Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowen-Dickie, Alex Hepburn. These boys are world-class players.

“And they do respect us, 100 per cent, because they’re aware of the challenges we pose for them as a team.”

Surprisingly, considering Exeter are the stand-out team in England, and one of the best in Europe, this season, Hogg is the only Chief who will start today’s game due to a combination of injury, non-selection and family reasons.

“I’ve had a fair bit of banter with them this week, even though they’re not involved,” said Hogg. “Ollie Devoto is on the bench, though, so we’re going to have to shut him down. They do respect us.

“For me, I’m concentrating on doing my job for the team and we’re giving ourselves every opportunity to win. What will be will be. We go back after the Six Nations and we’ll be concentrating on Exeter.

“But, until then, it’s about winning tomorrow.”

It will be Hogg’s seventh taste of Calcutta Cup action. He lost his first five before playing his part in that stunning 25-13 thumping of Eddie Jones’s men in 2018. He missed the unforgettable 38-38 draw at Twickenham last year after a shoulder injury against Ireland on the second weekend ended his Six Nations.

“I was involved in the first couple of games before picking up an injury. It was my daughter’s second birthday and we had a lot of people around and enjoyed the Super Saturday,” recalled Hogg. “I didn’t enjoy the first half and was frustrated for the boys but they showed a Scotland performance in the second half and I was incredibly proud of what the boys achieved.

“We cannot be in the same situation again to give them a 31-0 head start. We have got to make sure we are ready to go. They [England] are renowned for starting well. You saw that during the World Cup so the first 20 minutes are huge and for us that is all we are concentrating on.

“That [second half at Twickenham] showed we can attack and defend and mix up a game plan as much as we want and it is down to believing in your own ability and the man next to you and the man next to him.

“If we get that we will be in a very good place. We have worked incredibly hard over the last few weeks to get in the best place possible and I truly believe tomorrow we can go out there and win.

“I’ve been involved in a few Calcutta Cup matches now and come out on the wrong end a few times. But 2018 was definitely a highlight. Here’s hoping tomorrow we can emulate that.

“We can’t stand back and admire England for too long. They’ve got some cracking individual players. A quality side.

“They weren’t in a World Cup final for nothing. They are a world-class team.”