Fleet-footed Hogg ready for defensive shift against Ireland

Tokyo (AFP) –


Stuart Hogg has long been a shining light for struggling Scotland and the fleet-footed full-back said Wednesday he was ready for another solid defensive shift in their World Cup opener against Ireland.

Hogg established himself as the pin-up of Scottish rugby with his elusive free running, eating up metres from the back and scooping Six Nations player of the season awards in 2016 and 2017, despite Scotland finishing fourth in both tournaments.

His equally strong defence and ability with the boot, allied to his attacking prowess, also earned him a place in Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions squads in both 2013 and 2017.

Only four Scots made that first tour and it was just two in 2017, although Hogg has yet to play a Lions Test after his second tour was cut short by injury.

The 27-year-old has returned to fine form after being ruled out of the end of last season's Six Nations following a late, no-arms tackle by Ireland's Peter O'Mahoney.

After arriving in Tokyo from a training camp in Nagasaki, Hogg said it was "good to be here", ahead of Sunday's Pool A clash in nearby Yokohama.

"The boys are excited to get going, it's the first time in a long time we've got a good squad to pick from," said the 69-times capped player.

"The training has been right up there with best I've been involved in."

Hogg, who joins English Premiership team Exeter from Glasgow Warriors after the World Cup, added: "It's just about doing a job on Sunday.

"That's getting our campaign off to a great start with a win against Ireland."

Hogg acknowledged that kicking off against Ireland, World Rugby's number one ranked team, was like being thrown into the deep end.

"In Test match rugby there is no such thing as an easy game," he said. "If there's a time to take on Ireland, I believe it's now, before they get a head of steam almost."

In a pool that also includes hosts Japan, Russia and hard-hitting Samoa, Hogg said defence was key.

"Defensively we're going to have to be spot-on.

"We believe that defence will win World Cups and that's something we've been working incredibly hard on since the middle of June.

"We're concentrating on ourselves and making sure that we don't beat ourselves and we don't make too many silly errors and make sure... we make the most of every single possibility we get.

"It's exciting times to be part of this team."