Scotland must take every opportunity against Ireland, insists Hogg

Stuart Hogg believes Scotland must make the most of the few opportunities they will get against Ireland in their Rugby World Cup opener.

Stuart Hogg believes Scotland must make the most of the few opportunities they will get against Ireland in their Rugby World Cup opener.

The Exeter Chiefs star, a two-time Player of the Championship, is in no doubt about the task at hand in Yokohama on Sunday against the side ranked number one in the world.

But Hogg is confident Gregor Townsend’s men have what it takes to get the job done – and he hopes an early tournament encounter will play into Scotland’s hands.

“In international rugby there is no such things as an easy game,” he said. “But if there is a time to take on Ireland, I believe it is now, before they get up a head of steam.

“We believe defence will win World Cups, and that is something we have been working incredibly hard on since we came together in June.

“The quality and standards in training have been right up there with the best I have been involved in.

“We feel we are in a good place but now it is about making sure we do our job on Sunday and make sure all that training comes good for us.”

Scotland experienced a rollercoaster 2019 Six Nations Championship campaign, which included a solitary win against Italy, three defeats and a thrilling 38-38 draw against England.

One of those three defeats came against Ireland at BT Murrayfield, where Hogg was forced off with an injury after only 17 minutes as the visitors triumphed 22-13 in Edinburgh.

But while Hogg acknowledges the size of the task in front of Scotland, he insists their defeat to England in the recent Championships shows there is a potential chink in the men in green’s armour.

“We are fully aware of the challenges they are going to bring,” he said. “Whatever team Ireland put out, we are going to have to match it and beat it.

“If they play their best team, or some boys who haven’t got as much experience, it is still an incredibly huge challenge for us.

“We are just concentrating on ourselves and making sure we don’t beat ourselves and make too many silly errors.

“We might get five or six opportunities in the game to get some points on the board and we have to make the most of every single opportunity we are given.”

He added: “It is the first time in a long time that we have got a good squad to pick from (without any major injuries). Everybody is fighting fit and gunning to get a starting jersey.”

Hogg has only enjoyed two victories over Ireland in his nine-year international career, featuring in the 2013 and 2017 Six Nations successes – both coming at BT Murrayfield.

Now, he believes the team’s chemistry and improvements over the course of 2019 can upset the world’s best Test side and ultimately claim the biggest prize in world rugby.

“We are across the other side of the world, we have not got our friends or family close by,” he continued. “We very much talk about being a family.

“The boys are very much enjoying each other’s company, there is a good bit of craic happening, and we try to make this experience as enjoyable as possible.

“The boys are having fun on and off the field and making sure we get ourselves in the best frame of mind and the best physical condition to win a World Cup.”