Hogg's 7-day isolation: 'I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy'
Stuart Hogg has outlined his relief after emerging from his seven-day period of Lions tour self-isolation after he was identified as a close contact of the staff member who tested positive in the middle of last week for Covid-19. That contact tracing ruled the Scotland skipper out of selection for the two matches against the Sharks and the South Africa A game.
However, having flown to Cape Town on Wednesday with the four staff members who were also caught up in the virus outbreak, Hogg was seen doing some running at the stadium prior to the Lions’ 17-13 defeat and he has now been selected as captain for this Saturday’s final preparation game versus the Stormers ahead of the Test series against the Springboks.
It is the second occasion Hogg will skipper the Lions as he previously took on the responsibility for the first match on South African soil against Sigma Lions on July 3, a week after he was only chosen on the replacements bench for the Gallagher Premiership final with Exeter.
Having missed out on Lions Test team selection in 2017 due to a fractured cheek suffered in a collision with teammate Conor Murray in the win over the Crusaders, he is keen to emphasise his value to Warren Gatland this weekend ahead of the July 24 series opener versus the Springboks. “The key was to get into a good routine,” said Hogg about his week-long experience of being holed up in a Johannesburg hotel awaiting the all-clear from the medics to rejoin the Lions squad in Cape Town.
“It’s a long old time to be hidden away. Getting my routine sorted and making sure I was as productive as I possibly could seemed to pass the time a lot quicker. It was challenging at times. We had a mini-isolation group and had a good bit of craic along the way and kept each other going. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Honestly, it was a horrendous few days but I am delighted to be back.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 15, 2021
“It became a little bit easier once the boys and everybody in the touring party left (Johannesburg). We got a little bit of time to spend in the gym and managed to sanitise it about a million times when we were in there. I got a chance to do everything I possibly could. I was carrying a little knock after a training session but I’m all good now and excited to get going again.”
Relieved that he is still getting the chance to force his way into the Lions Test team selection, Hogg revealed how the friendly fire injury four years ago in New Zealand took him up to two years to finally get over and rediscover his spark for playing. “It was something I kept quiet and almost to myself for a long time. The experience I had in 2017, I felt going into that tour I had been playing some good rugby and to have it taken away from me was bitterly disappointing.
“It probably took me a good year-and-a-half, two years to get over it and get back up and running and get excited about playing rugby again. I had the hunger and the drive to get back I kept it to myself. My focus all along was to make sure I gave myself every opportunity to represent the Lions again and now I am here it is about making the most of it. It has been a lot of hard work along the way.
Lions boss Gatland was delighted to have Hogg back in the mix at the time when Liam Williams is negotiating his return to play protocols following his concussion against South Africa A and an ankle sprain/tight hamstring is affecting Anthony Watson from the same game.
“Stuart has been a bit unlucky on the last couple of Lions tours, the injury in 2017 which put him out of the Test series and then the close contact with Covid which has kept him out of a couple of games. It’s good to have him back. He will be raring to go.”
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 15, 2021
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