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Exeter rate Hogg's return: 'Life isn't always about looking back'

By Liam Heagney

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Rob Baxter has outlined his satisfaction that Stuart Hogg is now part of the starting Exeter XV again and that the pair have put behind them the decisions that resulted in the Scotland captain sitting on the Chiefs’ bench for last June’s Gallagher Premiership and semi-final. It was a hard-fought round 22 match versus Sale at Sandy Park that prompted Baxter to take drastic action and demote Hogg from his starting line-up at the business end of the season. 

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Hogg looked off the pace in that Exeter match against the Sharks and when the same teams clashed the following weekend, the Scot had been demoted to the bench and he was also a replacement behind Jack Nowell for the subsequent Twickenham final versus Harlequins. 

Having since been on tour with the Lions where he started two of the three Test matches, Hogg returned to the Exeter fold for last weekend’s trip to Sale and the full-back looked the part on this occasion against an opposition that had caused him so much trouble 16 weeks previously.  

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The Chiefs clinched their first win of the new season at the third attempt and Baxter was effusive in his praise of Hogg when asked at his midweek media briefing about the 29-year-old contribution in Manchester. 

“I thought he was very, very good,” he said. “It was kind of what I was expecting. I made a couple of tough decisions on Stuart at the end of last season but I still think they were okay and they were the right decisions, and I’ll make the right decisions now. 

“He came into training, told me the Monday of the Sale game he was raring to go, ready to play, wanted to be involved, want to get on with things and that is what he did. He has bounced back from disappointment before. He has lost games of rugby before, things haven’t gone his way before and he has kept coming through. He looks to me like he is bang on form. He looks fit, looks sharp, looks quick, looks strong. 

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“There wasn’t much more he could have done for us at the weekend. He beat numerous men, he looked strong on the ball, he looked quick, his kicking game was very good, his decision making was very good. He was chatting with the back three, his organising was very good. I couldn’t have asked much more of him. I am just very pleased for him and very pleased he is getting on with things.”

Baxter added that the focus should now be on the future rather than a continuous reflection on the Exeter team selections of last June. “He went on a Lions tour and it wasn’t unsuccessful for him. He started on two Lions Tests, he is Scotland captain, the autumn internationals are coming up. Stuart has got a lot of big things to play for. He has come straight in, helped us win our first game of the season, and has got ambitions to help us win European trophies and Premiership trophies. There is a lot ahead. 

“Life isn’t always about looking back. Now he has just got to look ahead about the positives that are right in front of him. There are games for us that are right in front of him and in a few weeks’ time he is probably going to be captaining Scotland in another international in front of a sellout crowd. There is a lot of positives for him to look forward to. You don’t have to always get bogged down in the past.”

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Exeter rate Hogg's return: 'Life isn't always about looking back'

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