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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'He was playing in a lot of pain towards the end of last season'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

Exeter have revealed the real reason why Stuart Hogg didn’t travel on the three-Test Scotland tour to Argentina in July was because of an operation to remedy an injury that left him playing through the pain barrier last season. It was June 8 when Gregor Townsend left regular Test team skipper Hogg out of the 40-man squad for a South American tour that also included a non-Test have versus Chile.

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The belief at the time was that Hogg was being rested as he had toured South Africa through to August 2021 with the Lions, and there was no mention of an injury to the full-back from Scotland before they jetted off without him on their trip. There was also speculation that his absence was perhaps a carry-over from the disciplinary reprimand that he and some other Scotland players received in March for an unsanctioned pub visit.

However, it has now been confirmed by Exeter just days out from the start of the new Gallagher Premiership season that Hogg underwent surgery and won’t feature in this Saturday’s league campaign opener at home to reigning champions Leicester.

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The 30-year-old finished out last season by starting in the final round match versus Harlequins on June 4 and it was four days later when it emerged via Scotland that he would not be travelling with them, a decision that resulted in Hogg instead doing Sky Sports punditry on some of the tour games.

It was while discussing the injury situation heading into the new club season in England at a media briefing on Wednesday when Exeter head coach Ali Hepher revealed that Hogg had an off-season operation.

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“He had an operation on a knee, just a tidy-up,” revealed Hepher. “He was playing in a lot of pain towards the end of last season and now he will be clear of that and hopefully should be available in a couple of weeks’ time. He is looking full of energy and wants to get back on that rugby field where he enjoys being.

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“Those (rehabbing) guys have been pushing each other incredibly hard. You have got Henry (Slade) in that group, you have got Josh Hodge learning a lot from those two. You have got Tom Hendrickson in that group as well.

“They are all sort of driving and pushing each other on and it will be nice to see them back. They are starting to drop in and do a little bit of rugby now and you suddenly see their quality coming through, you know you have got someone exciting coming back.

“We had quite a lot of operations towards the end of the season and at the start of pre-season. A few guys are still working through their rehab. Some guys will return this weekend and there will be a handful of guys not too far away, looking at three or so rounds in. It’s really promising on that front. We have got a lot of quality to add back in and also we have got a lot of quality on the field anyway.

“We’re getting there. The guys that are sort of getting close to it are Stu Townsend, Ruben van Heerden is on the mend, Dave Ewers has had a tidy-up on his knee and looks there or thereabouts, Jack Nowell is in and around the mix as well (and available for Saturday).

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“We have Luke (Cowan-Dickie) to probably follow a little bit later with Henry, Stuart and Josh. They are the main guys that are in and around that return to play. A few are available for selection (this weekend) and a few in a few weeks’ time.”

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