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Stuart Hogg announces retirement from rugby

Stuart Hogg - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports
Stuart Hogg - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports

In something of a shock, Scotland centurion Stuart Hogg has announced his retirement from playing rugby with immediate effect.

Earlier this year, the 31-year-old former Glasgow Warriors and Exeter Chiefs full-back made known his intention to retire after the coming Rugby World Cup in France.

During this year’s Six Nations, Hogg perhaps failed to consistently meet his own high standards while Blair Kinghorn and Ollie Smith have both shown promise as his potential successors in the 15 shirt, despite limited opportunities. For this reason many believed that even if Hogg’s physical condition had held up, the tournament would have marked a fitting end to his impressive test career.

Despite this, it was surprising to hear the announcement there would be no World Cup, no Murrayfield swansong during the warm-up tests. After much contemplation, Hogg has decided to end his career now, before the tournament, due to the toll it would take on his body.

Hogg made history this year as the latest Scotland player to reach 100 caps, one of a very small group and with the greatest of respect to the others, few could argue his career had probably the biggest impact on the national side’s fortunes as well as the global game.

Stuart Hogg
Stuart Hogg – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

“I fought with everything I had to make the Rugby World Cup but this time my body has not been able to do the things I wanted and needed it to do. We knew this day would come eventually, I just never thought it would be this soon. It’s hard to put into words just how much of an impact the game has had on my life. I will be retiring knowing that I have given my body and heart to rugby. I will be forever grateful to this amazing community and cannot wait to begin my journey as a proud supporter of the team.”

Stuart Hogg

From his debut in February 2012 when he came off the bench against Wales after a memorable try for Scotland A against England Saxons the week before, Hogg was a bright spark.

Often the bright spark.

After his debut, Hogg made an instant impact in his first home start by scoring a try against France. He went on to represent Scotland at two World Cups, captaining the side in back-to-back wins over England in 2021 and 2022 as well as a historic victory against France in the Stade de France.

He will retire as Scotland’s record try scorer – although a number of the current squad are coming up hard on the rails for that particular feat – and holds the third most appearances as skipper.

Stuart Hogg - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Stuart Hogg’s class could be key to unlocking Connacht’s defence – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Hogg won the PRO12 with Glasgow Warriors in 2015 as part of a Glasgow side who made the playoffs 5 seasons in a row, and became the youngest player to reach 100 club appearances aged 24.

After he moved to Premiership club Exeter Chiefs he was a key part of the team that lifted the European Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership titles in 2020.

Hogg has also toured all three of the Lions southern hemisphere opponents in 2013, 2017 and 2021. From being the youngest on tour in Australia in 2013 guarding the stuffed Lion, by his final 2021 tour in South Africa Hogg had started two Tests, finally earning the shirt he’d come so close to on previous tours and dreamed of since a kid in Hawick.

Hogg Press Conference Lions
2021 British & Irish Lions Tour To South Africa British & Irish Lions Press Conference, South Africa 1/7/2021 Stuart Hogg Mandatory credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

For more than a few years, Hogg’s pace and verve from the back were a refreshing tonic at a bleak time for Scotland in general and Scottish back play in particular; he offered something new and refreshing we hadn’t seen in a Scotland player since the 1990s – possibly even since the heyday of Andy Irvine.

He wasn’t just a threat on the hoof – there was the siege gun boot that so often turned the opposition on their heels, versatility enough to play 10 (for his country and the Lions), the odd drop goal and more defensive plays than you might give him credit for.

That’s also the reason he has struggled lately: he’s carried the weight of Scotland’s expectations on his shoulders ever since his debut, and perhaps as fans we’ve expected too much from him at times. That weight has been clear to see at times, never more so than during his spell as captain.

It meant the world to Hogg to represent his country over the years, but that responsibility weighed heavy on him probably because of the type of personality he is, whereas pressure seems to bother a laid back character like Finn Russell less. His legacy may be that his career trajectory has allowed younger players like Darcy Graham to emerge almost unheralded despite their brilliance because we’re more used to Scotland backs showing moments of flair now; Hogg turned it from exception to rule. At the same time, we’ve become so used to it that we’re probably going to freak out if Scotland can’t produce more talents at that level,.

“I have had the pleasure of coaching Stuart for the majority of his career, and he was a joy to work with and watch on the training field and in games. He had a love for so many aspects of the game, and not only got joy from taking on defenders with ball in hand but also putting his teammates into space. His basic skills and speed set him apart from other players, and it has been an amazing effort to play Test rugby for the past 11 years. To reach 100 caps this year was fitting and just reward for a career that has seen him represent the British & Irish Lions and win trophies both domestically and at a European level.”

Gregor Townsend, Scotland Head Coach

Hogg was unlucky at times. Especially during the 2017 Lions when Conor Murray’s elbow accidentally sent him home early, or the tantalisingly close calls in recent years against New Zealand – the test in 2017 was probably one of his best games for Scotland and that final attack still breaks my heart every time – where the team had a real chance at history. Still, ticking off away wins in Wales, England and France will be a big part of his legacy.

Occasionally he has been the architect of his own misfortunes: spiky relations with the press during his captaincy, or his brief spell in the wilderness at Glasgow while apparently trying to engineer a big money move to Ulster that never materialised, that saw him miss Glasgow’s first PRO12 final.

Probably the best compliment we could pay Hoggy is that while a player of his calibre will always be missed, Scotland now has a generation of young players who have played with, or been inspired by, Stuart Hogg. The high-paced, incisive offloading game that was his hallmark is now Scotland’s Plan A: no longer an afterthought or an impossibility.

You can find Hoggy’s first appearance on the Scottish Rugby Blog, back in 2011, here. His career has spanned the lifetime of the blog and overall it has been a pleasure to watch him play.

Thanks for all the memories, Stuart.

With thanks to: Cammy Black, Alistair Ross and Peter Watt for their assistance

23 Responses

  1. A quite magnificent talisman for Scottish rugby, Hogg was gifted me 5 or 6 of my 10 all time rugby memories, a magical, emotional strangely scottish all time great.

    1. Yes, hopefully someone can step up to fill his shoes.

      Hoggy has been a magnificent player for Scotland. He has so much responsibility for dragging us up out of the dark days he can be truly proud of what he gave Scotland fans.

  2. Worrying lack of cover for the back three if anyone else pulls out from the RWC squad through injury. Maconachie is hardly inspiring but with Maitland and Rowe both recovering from injury really no one else.I can’t readily think of anyone at pro level who’d be remotely near that level in pro rugby whether at FB or wing (Perhaps Hutchison at FB but Scottish qualified wingers are very thin on the ground unless Tom Roebuck opts for us-too much reliance on overseas players to fill the squads?)

  3. He will go down as a legend of the Scottish game, shame he couldn’t continue but his form hasn’t been great for the last couple of years and I think he is doing the right thing retiring rather than trying to force his body to do things it can’t anymore. I suspect he was told he wouldn’t make the WC squad and given the option to bring his retirement forward and bow out with grace.

    Its hard to comprehend now just how much of an impact he made when he came onto the scene. We literally couldn’t score tries for love nor money, our backs created nothing and the few opportunities we did create were invariably butchered by panic and lack of basic skills, but Hogg came in and looked like a normal (in the best way possible) international rugby player, he just took the ball and scored like the players on other teams did.

    That try against Ireland in 2016 was insane and is my standout memory, that and the split second against New Zealand in 2017 when you thought he was through, I can still hear Andrew Cottar, great stuff. He was probably the best player in the NH from around 2016-18, certainly the best fullback. Crying shame about his injury in the 2017 Lions tour as a big performance in the test squads would have cemented his legacy out with Scotland I think.

    I don’t think captaincy suited him but there was never any doubting his commitment and passion, probably a bit much at times which detracted from his personal performance.

    All the best Hoggy and thanks for the memories.

    1. Great summary and I totally agree – that try against Ireland in 2016 was otherwordly – you can see him just accelerating away from an entire team in green. Amazing stuff given where we’d come from before. Most exciting talent along with Russell over the last 20 years, but has won more in the game (and has looked after himself a bit better!).

      I also despaired at that 2017 Lions injury. He would have been a nailed-on test starter, despite some corners claiming that liam williams would have been preferred. That was his peak. It was a crying shame that he was injured.

      I’ve always wondered whether anyone anywhere has ever suggested that there was any malice in it, given it came from Connor Murray, and we all know that the Munster / Glasgow and Ire/Sco rivalries were intense around that time….has Murray ever expressed any regret, or was it a pure accident? I’ve always wondered….not trying to denigrate Murray, who I admire massively, but almost strange that there wasn’t even any “gossip” about it at the time.

  4. A hugely talented player who in combination with a few other outstanding players lifted us out of the painful international doldrums of the noughties and early 2010s. We were very lucky to have him and I wish him all the best in his retirement from top flight rugby.

    It’s a sad reflection of today’s troll-infested social media that the BBC Rugby online Have Your Say thread on Hogg’s retirement was cut off after only 44 comments. Actually, also a sad reflection of BBC online moderators’ lack of bottle, because I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the only one here who would have taken some of the trolls on.

    Good luck, Stuart. And thanks for everything you did for club, country and Lions.

  5. Will go down in the annals as a world class 15 …being mentioned in similar breaths as some of the others . No more fitting tribute really

  6. Dammit – think his last six nations was hugely undervalued, and should have been starter in France. Damn shame not to be going out at the World Cup. Maybe he changes his mind. If not, was always the best.

    1. Hogg played OK in last 6N but wasn’t the Hogg of 2 years ago. I probably agree 70% Hogg starts, but the man himself couldn’t have it.
      I’ve said before I like Hastings at 15, Kinghorn can run but…….., Smith is strong wholehearted but…….

      1. Absolutely agree with this too! If couldn’t make the whole game. Covers 10 :)

  7. Really nice write-up, Rory.

    What are everyones, say, top 5 Stuart Hogg performances (or tries, moments, etc) ?

    I’d go with:

    1. France 2016 (best player by far on the pitch and drove us almost singel-handedly to the win)
    2. New Zealand 2017 (in prime Hogg-as-a-playmaker/distributor mode)
    3. England 2021 (those spirals…)
    4. England 2013 (this feels like the game he was properly *announced*, scoring a try and setting up Maitland’s)
    5. Ireland 2017 (2 tries and at peak confidence)

    Slight shame he never really performed at the world cup or with the lions but some amazing moments there.
    Couldn’t think of a specific Glasgow or Exeter game but he was a class above at that level for years.

  8. Think I put this in here somewhere but I’ll post again
    The try Scotland A v England 2012
    The kick to touch v England 2021
    The try v Ireland 2016
    The assist for Visser try(s) v Wales 2016 France 2016
    The try v Italy 2013
    The try v Georgia 2016
    The joyous dance / jump after DVDM try v France 2021

  9. Well NZ showed us how SA are vulnerable and can be well beaten.
    A fast start with quick ball to Russell and at least one other kicking option in the backs (Hastings at 15).
    End to “get at” their backs, the last 30mins showed what you don’t want to do – have their forwards on rhe ball in our 22

  10. Scotland u20s have just lost to Uruguay so we won’t event get to play in the final of the Trophy to earn promotion. The other group winner is Spain who we recently hammered.

    Safe to say there were no young Hogg’s in the backline. If anyone doesn’t think we are facing a crisis in 5 years time or so, they really need to pause and think how far we have fallen.

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