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Stuart Hogg breaks silence on Scotland team disciplinary breach

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg has broken his silence over last weekend’s breach of team protocol which resulted in the full-back and five other players being disciplined for visiting a bar in Edinburgh without the permission of team management. Finn Russell, Ali Price, Darcy Graham, Sam Johnson, Sione Tuipulotu and Hogg all headed out on the town after they had arrived back in the Scottish capital following the round four Guinness Six Nations win over Italy.  

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As soon as they became aware that the six players had gone out, Scotland management ordered the players to immediately return to the team hotel and they were subsequently disciplined. Hogg, Graham, Johnson and Price were still all named in the Scotland XV to start against Ireland in Saturday’s round five match in Dublin, with Russell dropped to the bench and Tuipulotu, a sub in Italy, omitted from the matchday 23.  

It was only on Friday afternoon, after Scotland had completed all their pre-match media engagements, that news of the breach of protocol became public and it was understandably the dominant topic when Hogg appeared at his brief post-game media briefing in Dublin after Scotland had been beaten 26-5 by Ireland.

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“We held our hands up, we knew we made a mistake and we just got on with making sure we prepared the best possible way,” he replied when first asked about being involved in the disciplinary breach. “It was a challenging week but we had one of our best weeks of preparation and really stuck together and got on with our jobs. That had a massive effect on how we went at this game and unfortunately, we weren’t able to back it up the second half.”

The matter wasn’t allowed to rest there, though, and Hogg was soon asked if he had a message for Scotland fans upset by what the six players had done last weekend. “The main thing for us is we concentrate on doing what we can. For us, we talk a lot about staying connected as a team – it’s the players, the coaches, the management that matters to us, everything else is irrelevant to me.”

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That didn’t end the hot topic discussion as Hogg was next asked if he had apologised for his own involvement in the incident. “I did, I did. I held my hand up and said I made a mistake and it is something that will hurt me for a long, long time. But today I felt we played some good rugby at times and it made for a good game. The first 40 minutes was as good as we played. I’ll probably concentrate on that.

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“What is out there is out there. For us, we just want everything to remain in-house. We will concentrate on putting in a fairly good performance that we are proud of for the vast majority of that game and we will talk a lot about building the squad for the summer tour and autumn internationals. That is all we are focused on.”  

Even then, the conversion was worked back to the now infamous bar visit, Hogg quizzed on whether the matter could ultimately affect his status as Scotland team captain. “I don’t know how many times I am going to say I apologised and put my hand up. I knew I had made a mistake.

“I am very disappointed with what happened, I can’t sit here and say that I am not disappointed. For me I was annoyed, I was frustrated but I can’t go back and change anything. I don’t want to really dwell on it. I appreciate what you are after here but you are not going to get it.”   

As for the match in Dublin in which Scotland pegged Ireland to just a 14-5 lead until the hour-mark, Hogg added: “We are really frustrated with the outcome. The first half was probably some of the best rugby we played the whole campaign and we said all the right things at half-time but unfortunately the second half we just gave away too many penalties, coughed up the ball cheaply and compounded our errors. 

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“It is very disappointing and quite frustrating because we were in the game but it just shows you have to stay in every single moment in Test match rugby because against a top side like Ireland you are going to get punished.”

Hogg had a fantastic chance early in the second half to eat into Ireland’s nine-point lead only to get tackled into touch by Hugo Keenan just short of the line. “A lot of good stuff happened in that game and unfortunately we’re picking out the negatives. I am disappointed with that. I could have put that under my belly and scored in the corner and on another day I probably do, but we are looking at five seconds of an 80-minute performance.”

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