Scotland skipper Hogg refuses to be drawn in by England’s mind games

Stuart Hogg refused to get embroiled in a war of words with England as the Scotland skipper insisted he is not interested in Eddie Jones’ mind games.

Red Rose boss Jones kicked off the verbal skirmishes ahead of Saturday’s Murrayfield showdown earlier this week when he claimed Gregor Townsend’s outfit were a “niggly” team who look to “goad” opponents.

Northampton flanker Lewis Ludlam ramped up the rhetoric when he promised Scotland a “war” as the Auld Enemy end Scottish hopes of retaining the Calcutta Cup for the third year running.

RUGBYU Six Nations England
RUGBYU Six Nations England

But Dark Blues captain Hogg – who plays his club rugby south of the border with Exeter Chiefs – refused to take the bait.

The two-time British and Irish Lion said: “Look, my job is to make sure I’m concentrating on getting my performance spot on but also making sure the team is switched on.

“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.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’ve got a lot of respect for England.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play for a few of their boys on Lions tours and they’re world-class.

“But 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.”

It's good to be back 🏟️

The Scotland squad go through final preparations together at BT Murrayfield ahead of tomorrow's Calcutta Cup Test against England

— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 7, 2020

Scotland have not held the Calcutta Cup for three years on the spin since 1972 but that is the aim this weekend as they look to build on their 2018 victory and last year’s 38-38 thriller at Twickenham.

Victory would only enhance what is set to be a special moment for Hogg as he prepares to lead out his nation for at home for the first time.

The new skipper said: “I have loads of different memories of Scotland-England games, of course the most obvious one being 2018.

“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.

“It’s a huge honour to be given this opportunity to lead but for me now it’s all about doing my job on the field and making sure we do everything we can to get a result.

Stuart Hogg (left) will lead out Scotland for the first time at Murrayfield on Saturday
Stuart Hogg (left) will lead out Scotland for the first time at Murrayfield on Saturday

“If we nail our detail in attack and defence we can turn over England.

“On our day we can beat anyone. You saw that with England here a couple of years ago.”

It was not the Scots’ day last week in Dublin, however, as they missed a series of golden opportunities to put Ireland under pressure – none more glaring than Hogg’s own horror goal-line fumble.

It was the latest instalment in a long history of brave defeats for the Dark Blues and Hogg admits if he has one ambition while leading out his country, it is to rid them of their reputation for being plucky losers.

“Last week we were bitterly disappointed with the final outcome,” he said. “There were some good aspects to our game. We really took it to Ireland in attack and fronted up in defence. Something that has let us down the last couple of years.

Scotland’s Hamish Watson looks dejected after his team slumped to defeat in Dublin
Scotland’s Hamish Watson looks dejected after his team slumped to defeat in Dublin

“We’re gutted with the fact that we could have potentially won that game last week.

“The tag that we’ve been given really hurts the players but we need to be in a position to win Test matches before that goes. We get another opportunity tomorrow to make sure that’s gone. There’s a Calcutta Cup to play for and that’s all we’re concentrating on.

“We can’t stand back and admire England for too long. They’ve got some cracking individual players and are a quality side. They weren’t in a World Cup final for nothing. They are a world-class team and it’s going to take us to be at our best for the full 80 minutes to come away with the result we want.

“But we’re fully aware of that. That’s a huge exciting challenge for us – but we’re ready.”