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Stuart Hogg: 'I was the slowest back... I couldn’t do it anymore'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Stuart Hogg has revealed how the agony of pre-season training with Scotland convinced him to bring forward his planned retirement from playing. The recently-turned 31-year-old had announced earlier in 2023 that he would quit at the end of the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France, but he ultimately retired with immediate effect on July 9 after failing to reach the high standards he expected of himself at Test squad training.

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The former full-back has since been unveiled as a new TNT Sports rugby pundit for the upcoming 2023/24 season and his introductory interview with the channel has lifted the lid on exactly why he called time on his career before the finals where Scotland begin with a September 10 pool match versus South Africa in Marseille.

“It was horrible, a horrible few weeks,” he said, explaining the build-up to last month’s surprise announcement. “I remember at this point last I was going, ‘I’m absolutely buggered, I feel emotionally and physically drained by the game’.

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“The exciting thing was I was getting my knee operated on and it gave me time away from the game, gave me a chance to work on other areas… I came back and just couldn’t get going again. I couldn’t get going. My body dictates my mood and if my body is feeling rubbish then my whole mood is the exact same.”

Those feelings eventually resulted in meetings with his family and his agent over the course of last season where Hogg took the decision to finish his career post-RWC 2023. “I said enough is enough. I have had enough of feeling this way. I don’t feel I am getting to the standards that I try and maintain day in, day out and I thought let’s knock it on the head because I don’t want to ruin everything I have done over the past 13, 14 years.

“When I announced my retirement I thought I would do it post-World Cup because I would have a little break, get everything sorted, and then kick on in pre-season with Scotland and give it one last kick of the ball. But it was the exact same feeling I was getting in pre-season and I felt I was miles off the pace.

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“Like, I was going through the speed gates, that is not the be-all and end-all but I was the slowest back and I was like I have never been that before. I was in agony, the hard pitches, the double sessions, and I just got to the point where I was knackered physically, emotionally. We had a little holiday, time off and I came back here and said to Gill, I can’t do it anymore, I genuinely couldn’t do it anymore.

“It’s horrible, absolutely horrible because I was 30 years old and I said right, that’s it, I’m done and it’s far too young to be retiring but age is a number and fair play to all these boys who play until they are 35, 36 but I physically couldn’t.

“When you are not hitting the standards that I set for myself, there comes a realisation that you have to drop them ever so slightly to try and achieve them. I was going to training, training as hard as I possibly could and then struggling to get moving the next day. It was almost ‘swing your legs out of bed, how’s my knee feeling?’ and I just felt this is unhealthy and I decided to say that is it.”

What helped Hogg make peace with his decision was the reaction of Scotland coach Gregor Townsend when he told him last month that he was finished. The former Test skipper, who relinquished the captaincy role for the 2022/23 season, went on to explain how increasingly isolated he felt in the Scottish set-up and that it was time for him to finish up.

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“It happened just like that,” he said, clicking his fingers. “What I felt was just like that and I felt it was really, really tough. You went from being captain to being a normal player and I say a normal player, for somebody who has had a leadership role for that long to then have nothing, I just felt like wow, this is a bit strange.

“I explained this to Gregor. I felt almost like I didn’t belong in that camp any longer, which was mental. I sat here in tears. I was is this me being silly or is this me overreacting or is it the reality? When I was there (with Scotland) and we’d stay two nights a week, the first thing I would do when I get back to training is I do my recovery and I’d sit in my room and the day after when it was finished, I was first out the door.

“At the time because I didn’t want to sit in traffic, I just wanted to get home to Gill and the kids and be in a place that I felt comfortable in. Having that conversation with Gregor saying that I was completely done was incredibly tough. I did it literally five yards from here and I spoke to him and I explained all the reasons behind it and the best thing about the conversation with Gregor was not once did he try and change my mind.

“He was really happy for me because all he cared about was me as a person which I felt a sense of love coming from that and I was this is lovely. Like I was expecting, ‘No, I need you to come back, I need you to do this that and the other’ whereas he was concentrating on me as a person which I loved and he couldn’t have been any better.

“He said the door is always open, whenever you want to come back and you want to watch and want to catch up and get involvement in any way, he said the door is always open which I was like well it’s probably a little too soon to jump back in and see how everything is going but I had gone from being a player to the No1 supporter in a matter of minutes.

“I am genuinely quite excited to see how good the boys can be at the World Cup because as much as I would love to be there, I am excited to watch and I am excited to see how they go. It will be strange, it will be different but I have made this call to retire because I want what is best for me, what is best for my family and I believe I made the right decision.”

  • TNT Sports is the ultimate home for sports fans. Watch all the action from the Gallagher Premiership and European Rugby competitions on TNT Sports. TNT Sports is available across all major TV platforms and through discovery+, the streaming destination of TNT Sports in the UK. This isn’t Just Sport, This is Everything. For more info, visit: tntsports.co.uk
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Pete 347 days ago

Impressive. Best wishes for the next steps, from New Zealand.

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