Stuart Hogg says Scotland’s rugby team plan to give the Tartan Army further reason to smile in the wake of their football counterparts’ Euro 2020 qualification joy.
Steve Clarke’s side have given the national mood a huge lift by ending their 22-year exile from major tournaments with victory over Serbia in Belgrade. And now Hogg says the country’s oval-ball representatives are determined to prolong the feel good factor swirling round north of the border by securing a win against Italy in Florence on Saturday.
Gregor Townsend’s team have done their bit to lift the morale of the nation in recent weeks, with a rampant win over Georgia and then a first away victory in Wales since 2002 extending Scotland’s unbeaten run to four games. Hogg is keen to do his bit to ensure the gloom is lifted further when his team kick off their Autumn Nations Cup campaign against the Azzurri.
“We were absolutely delighted for the football boys,” he said. “They’ve been around [our training base] at the Oriam for the last few weeks so it’s great to see them succeed. For the nation, what they achieved was massive. A lot of us sat around and watched the game and we were absolutely buzzing for it.
“The big thing which hit home was that we are there to inspire the nation and the football boys did exactly that. Now it’s our turn, it’s our turn to inspire the nation and put smiles on peoples faces. It has been a tough year for everybody so if we can play a small part by putting smiles on peoples faces by getting results for everybody then that’s us doing our jobs. How good would it be if we were to win on Saturday? It would cap a great week for Scottish sport and that’s our aim.”
There is a familiar face back in Townsend’s ranks this weekend as the fly-half Duncan Weir makes his first start in four years in place of the injured pivots Finn Russell and Adam Hastings. But Hogg believes it is not only the former Glasgow Warrior’s hair that has sprouted since he moved to Worcester in 2018 as he hailed the new sense of assuredness the 29-year-old is displaying.
“Dunccy’s a lot more relaxed nowadays than he was a few years ago,” he said. “He’s a breath of fresh air round the camp. He’s come in with great energy, wanting to learn and improve on a daily basis and to keep the spirits high. But he also understands that he needs to drive us around the field.
“He’s old enough and ugly enough now to realise that. He’s been brilliant since coming back in. He’s been given an opportunity now and hopefully he and his wig can direct us around the field tomorrow.”