Hogg finds himself in Laidlaw’s shade as Scotland prepare for World Cup opener
The Exeter full-back is among the biggest names in Gregor Townsend’s squad yet he has found himself in former skipper Grieg Laidlaw’s shade.
Stuart Hogg has already suffered a case of mistaken identity in Japan but the Scotland star has no trouble recognising the threat facing his side in Sunday’s World Cup opener against Ireland.
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The Exeter full-back is among the biggest names in Gregor Townsend’s squad yet he has found himself in former skipper Grieg Laidlaw’s shade since touching down in the Far East.
The scrum-half has emerged as an unlikely poster boy for the Scots, with his team-mates left in stitches last week when hundreds of youngsters – as well as dozens of camera crews – flocked to catch a glimpse of the unassuming Borderer during an open training session during their training camp in Nagasaki.
Their interest stems back to his role as captain when the Dark Blues faced this year’s hosts in their opening game of the 2015 tournament.
But Hogg’s reputation as one of the game’s most thrilling attackers has apparently failed to stick in the minds of the Japanese public after he was first confused by a fan with stand-off Finn Russell – then more alarmingly with prop WP Nel.
Hogg – who will earn his 70th cap if he features against Joe Schmidt’s men in Yokohama this weekend – explained: “Mr Greig is a hero wherever he goes. It’s been great to see. There has been a lot of support for Greig and for the Scotland team in general.
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“We’ve had some fun with him. Anytime we’re walking through shopping malls we shout ‘Mr Greig’ when he walks in front. Everyone then turns around and mobs him. It’s been good fun.
“Although there have been a couple of things I have been disappointed with. I was standing in the hotel the other night and someone approached me with a poster to sign.
“Just as I took the pen he asked me if I was Finn Russell. I thought that would be the end of it and said, ‘no, I’m not Mr Russell’.
“The guy looked at his sheet again and WP Nel came next. I think it must have been the haircut.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) August 31, 2019
But Hogg admits there is no mistaking the quality available to Schmidt this weekend, even if his opposite number Rob Kearney and wing Keith Earls are both ruled out alongside Robbie Henshaw.
Hogg said: “I think Ireland have got some incredible players.
“If Kearney was to come out and Andrew Conway was to come in, then that’s another world-class player that we have to be fully aware of.
“Whatever team Ireland put out on Sunday we’re going to have to match and beat.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) September 17, 2019
�� @kinlochanderson have kitted out @Scotlandteam for their formal events while in Japan, wearing the City of Nagasaki Tartan.
The Tartan was developed in recognition of the strategic alliance agreement between Scottish Rugby and Nagasaki. #AsOne pic.twitter.com/MdSPL2Bd7N
“It’s exciting times for us. If they play the boys that haven’t got as much experience it will still be an incredibly huge challenge for us.
“Our game plan has a lot of different parts to the puzzle. We’re just concentrating on ourselves and making sure we don’t beat ourselves or make too many silly errors.
“We might get five or six opportunities in a game to put points on the board and we need to make the most of every single one of them.”
The Irish currently top the world rankings but Hogg is glad his side are taking on their Pool A rivals first up.
“In Test match rugby there is no such thing as an easy game but if there’s a time to take on Ireland then I believe it’s now, before they build up a head of steam,” he said.
“We’re fully aware of the challenge they’ll bring. But we’re very much focused on ourselves and we’re determined to ensure we bring our ‘A’ game to the party.
“Defensively we will have to be spot on, we believe defensive we will win the World Cup.”