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'The boys have given me a bit of stick because it looks like I celebrated as if we won the World Cup'

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Stuart Hogg hopes to complete a quickfire French double on Saturday and push Exeter closer to membership of an exclusive club. Barely a week after captaining Scotland to a first victory over France in Paris for 22 years, Hogg is back at the sharp end.

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This time it is a Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 appointment with Lyon at Sandy Park and Exeter are also guaranteed a home quarter-final versus Leinster if they win. Exeter were crowned European champions for the first time following a pulsating victory over Racing 92 in October.

Only four teams – Leicester, Leinster, Toulon and Saracens – have successfully defended the title since top-flight European knockout rugby began in 1995. “We achieved something extra special last year and we want to do the exact same this year,” Chiefs full-back Hogg said. 

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It all starts on Saturday. It’s not going to come easy. Every single team is going to be coming for us and we have got 80 minutes of rugby to perform to the best of our ability and give us every opportunity to progress in this tournament.

“It is one thing winning it, it’s another thing being able to back it up and go year on year. I truly believe we can and I am excited to be part of it.”

Hogg was quickly back into Exeter club mode after Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations heroics at Stade de France, which completed an impressive campaign that saw them claim away wins over Les Bleus and England. “The (Exeter) boys have given me a bit of stick because it looks like I celebrated as if we won the World Cup!” Hogg added.

“It was an unbelievable weekend for us, something that we are incredibly proud about, and I’m looking forward now to getting stuck in with the Chiefs again. The game plan that we try and play week in, week out at Exeter is all about backing ourselves and playing with a huge amount of confidence.

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“That is something I have tried to take back to the national side. In years gone by, we could quite easily sit back and take three points and be happy, whereas now the belief, ability in the camp and confidence to go after teams is really quite exciting.”

Exeter’s European Cup record against French opposition is a straight 50-50 split – ten wins and ten defeats – while Lyon have lost eleven of their 13 games in the competition. But they currently hold a top-six place in the French league and will not be daunted by tackling the holders away from home.

“Lyon are a quality side,” Hogg said. “They have got some world-class individuals and play really well as a team. We know where their strengths are and we know where the opportunities lie. The only pressure that is applied to us is through ourselves. We are very much looking forward to the challenge that is coming our way and we feel in a good place.”

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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