Scotland captain Hogg 'nervous' of new fly-half role

·3-min read
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg will start at fly-half against Italy

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg accepts he is in an "uncomfortable situation" ahead of his maiden Test start at fly-half in Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy.

British and Irish Lions full-back Hogg will wear the No. 10 shirt at Murrayfield after first-choice stand-off Finn Russell was ruled out with a concussion suffered in last week's 27-24 loss to Ireland.

Hogg finished that match deputising for Russell and coach Gregor Townsend has now decided to leave him there, even though Edinburgh fly-half Jaco van der Walt is in his squad.

Hogg hopes he can put the tension he is feeling to good use, with the Exeter Chiefs double-winner telling a pre-match press conference on Friday: "Is there any trepidation? Oh yeah, 100 percent. I'm really nervous about the game.

"But to get the best out of people you have to put them in an uncomfortable position. This is the perfect scenario for me -- I am not comfortable (at 10)."

Hogg, however, added: "I am a big believer in my own ability and when Gregor asked me if I wanted to play 10 I said, 'Whatever is best for the team'. Gregor wouldn't ask me those questions if he didn't believe in me."

Even though Italy will kick-off on a woeful run of 31 successive Six Nations defeats, Hogg has no plans to emulate any of Russell's extravagant attacking plays.

"No one in world rugby is the same as Finn," he said. "The big thing for me is getting my basics right, making sure I get in the right positions and allow us to go forward with good momentum."

It is likely to be a one-game duty for Hogg as Russell should be clear to face France on March 26 and has been given permission by his club Racing 92 to line up for Scotland in Paris.

Talks, however, are still going on between the Scottish Rugby Union and the English Premiership over player release for the French game,

The third-round tie should have been played last month but was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the France squad.

But the new date for the fixture falls outside the agreed Six Nations 'window' meaning English and European champions Exeter are no longer obliged to release Hogg as well as club colleagues Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner.

Premiership side Worcester Warriors have said they would be prepared to let back-row Cornell du Preez play in the match provided "it is on the same financial terms as English players are released to the RFU (England's governing Rugby Football Union)".

And a Premiership spokesman subsequently said clubs were ready to make an exception to their longstanding policy of not releasing players for non-England matches outside an agreed window if they received "reasonable reimbursement".

Hogg added: "We've just got to let the powers that be make the decisions," he said. "All I'm concentrating on is playing the Italians tomorrow.

"It's a decision that's out of my hands so therefore it's pointless me chatting about it."