Scotland v England Six Nations: Our best team in a decade says Stuart Hogg as hosts look to get Calcutta Cup off the ground

It’s not often that second-tier internationals cause too many ripples, but this result made waves.

Hogg heralded his arrival that night with a wonderful solo attempt, blasting his way through the England defense after catching a high ball in his own half.

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“I think that was the kickoff to my career, really,” Hogg mused yesterday as he looked forward to today’s Calcutta Cup clash at BT Murrayfield.

“It was very memorable. They had Ugo Monye on the sideline that was on the Lions tour three years earlier and I don’t think he touched the ball.

“I think at the time that would have been the biggest rugby game I had ever been involved with. Getting the chance to represent a senior Scotland team at Netherdale was quality.

“It’s pretty scary that it was ten years ago. It means I’m getting old. I’ve loved it and it’s been a good ride so far, but I’m far from done.”

Hogg made his full Scotland debut nine days later and is now about to embark on his 11th Six Nations campaign and third as captain. It has been, as he says, quite a journey.

Stuart Hogg during the captain’s run at BT Murrayfield before Scotland’s game with England. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

Last summer he toured with the Lions for the third time and was part of the Test team in South Africa. Then, in November, he became Scotland’s all-time leading tryscorer by scoring his 25th score in the win over Japan. He too has seen notable club successes, helping Glasgow Warriors to the Pro12 title in 2015 and then being instrumental in Exeter Chiefs’ Premiership and European Champions Cup double in 2020.

But not everything has been a bed of roses. Hogg spoke this week about “dealing with the crashes” that followed his successes on the pitch and how he turned to Scotland wellness coach Ben Scott for help and advice.

“I can’t speak to what he’s done for other guys, but what he’s done for me has been absolutely amazing,” Hogg said. “We have regular meetings with Ben as a squad and make sure we have healthy relationships with everything, how we can come together as a team. For me it has worked wonders, from everything to getting my weekly schedule correct and how I feel going into a game.”

The winger faces today’s match with confidence. He says that Scotland’s current group is the strongest he has played with and credits Steve Tandy in particular for the work he has done to improve his defense.

Ten years have passed since Stuart Hogg’s memorable solo attempt in Scotland’s A’s 35-0 win over England’s Saxons in Netherdale. Image: Jayne Wright

“It’s definitely the best team I’ve ever been involved with,” Hogg said. “It’s definitely an environment and a team that has been the best in terms of the ten years that I’ve been involved.

“Steve Tandy has come in and given us a lot of confidence to go out there and defend. He doesn’t want perfection because perfection doesn’t exist. As long as we understand where things have worked well for us.

“It has changed our whole mentality about defense. We’re not looking for jackals, we try to make every breakdown as big a fight as possible to slow down and put ourselves in a position to come back.”

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Stuart Hogg thinks this is the best team in Scotland he has ever been involved with. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

Since Gregor Townsend replaced Vern Cotter as head coach in 2017, Scotland have had the whip hand in the Calcutta Cup, winning the trophy in 2018, retaining it at Twickenham the following year after a 38-38 draw and regaining it last year. in London after he lost the 2020 match in Edinburgh.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t used to worry about playing against England, especially in the early years,” he said. “Some of the names that used to play us for England made playing them quite a scary task. But not now, not now. I really believe in my ability and that of the team. I think we can go out there and win, and that has been proven correct over the last four years or so.

“We know we can compete with England, and that’s what’s exciting about our team. That’s why we’re excited about this match, that’s why we’re excited about the challenge”.

Much has been made of the matchup between Finn Russell and Marcus Smith in the matchup, two talented players ready to fire up their respective teams. But with strong winds and heavy rain forecast, their attack instincts are likely to be curbed.

Hogg worked with Smith on the Lions tour and sees parallels between the two starts. Ominously, he also notes the young Englishman’s skills in inclement weather.

Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg will be key to Scotland’s chances at the Calcutta Cup. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

“He is a quality talent. He is exactly like Finn was, fresh on the scene, full of confidence. He has amazing skills and reads the game very well. We played him just after the New Year, Exeter vs Quins, and he was really good that day. It was a pretty gloomy day to play rugby and he handled it incredibly well. It will be an absolute quality battle between him and Finn.”

Hogg has every right to be confident, but history suggests it should be tempered with realism. Scotland have not beaten England in successive years since 1984, when David Johnston and Euan Kennedy scored the tries in an 18-6 win at Murrayfield that was the springboard to a Grand Slam. A replay would be the ideal start for a team looking to turn talent into something more tangible.

To celebrate the start of the Six Nations, we are offering a 30% discount on ALL new annual digital subscriptions to The Scotsman. Read the best rugby coverage from Scotland, expert analysis and get unlimited access to award-winning Scottish journalism. Sign up today using code SIXNTS30

Congratulations from Matt Scott, right, after Stuart Hogg’s try for Scotland A v England Saxons in 2012 at Galashiels. Image: Jayne Wright

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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