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What Gatland likes about Lions skipper Hogg's leadership style

By Liam Heagney

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Warren Gatland has explained why he has backed Start Hogg to go from being a Gallagher Premiership final bench player to captaining the Lions in South Africa when they play the first of their eight matches there this Saturday against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg. 

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Scotland skipper Hogg fell out of favour in the closing weeks of the English club season, losing the No15 jersey at Exeter to Jack Nowell for the semi-final win over Sale and last Saturday’s defeat in the final to Harlequins at Twickenham. However, that selection setback at the Chiefs hasn’t put Gatland off handing Hogg the captaincy in Johannesburg this Saturday three weeks before the start of the Test series versus the Springboks. 

Ireland’s Conor Murray was made tour captain last weekend following the shoulder dislocation suffered by Alun Wyn Jones, but Gatland has suggested Hogg was also among the contenders to replace Jones and he has liked what he has seen so far in South Africa from this weekend’s matchday captain.  

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The making of Lions second row Maro Itoje
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The making of Lions second row Maro Itoje

“You are looking at players that have had some experience and Stuart is on his third tour now, he has done a great job with Scotland, has come from a successful club in Exeter so he has got that experience and leadership skills and he is very calm,” said Gatland, explaining why he has chosen Hogg to lead a Lions XV showing 14 changes from last Saturday’s win over Japan, Josh Adams being the sole repeat starter.    

“He goes out there and leads from the front in terms of the way that he plays and delivers concise and clear messages without rambling on and raving. I really like his leadership style and the way he has been with the team this week. He was another of the players who potentially were in contention (to succeed Jones).

“We have got a very strong leadership group and we are going to need other players besides Conor Murray through this tour to captain the side. We are fortunate that we have got a fair number of choices that we can possibly go to. Losing Alun Wyn has put responsibilities on the leadership group and other players in the group to step up and really support each other. They have done a great job in doing that in taking on that mantle to ensure it is not just Stuart’s job but everyone’s. Those experienced players have taken a role in terms of communicating and taking some of the pressure off the captain.”

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Hogg was chuffed with the prospect of going from the Exeter bench to skippering the Lions in the space of a week. “You want to be involved and you want to win every single game that you play. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite come off for us at the weekend which was a bit of a disappointment but I have had to draw a line under that very quickly and get on with my next job. 

“I’m very fortunate to be involved this weekend and I’m looking forward to getting out there and expressing myself and hopefully contributing to a successful start. For me, it’s a huge, huge honour. As a kid growing up you watched all the different Lions DVDs and videos and I had a dream of representing them one day but to be given the opportunity to captain this side is absolutely amazing. 

“I’m over the moon. Delighted with the opportunity. A huge amount of confidence is put into me to lead this side but for me, it becomes a lot easier with the amount of experience in the squad as well. I am hugely excited for the challenge,” he enthused, adding that England’s Martin Johnson was his favourite Lions skipper from yesteryear.  

“For me after watching the ’97 Lions video about a million times and being able to quote about 90 per cent of it, I’d say Martin Johnson. Absolutely loved it. The thing for me about being captain is that it doesn’t change anything that you do, you go out there and you be your own man, you be yourself.

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“I have never been the one that will stand and scream and shout or boss people around. I like to lead by the way I perform. I’m very fortunate that within this team at the weekend there is a huge amount of experience and some great leaders,” continued Hogg, who admitted telling his closest family members earlier this week that would be captaining the Lions this weekend before the official announcement came out on Thursday.

“Owen Farrell, Finn Russell, Maro Itoje, Jamie George. For me, I just need to go out there and do my job. That is the way that I lead and if there is something to be said I am a very passionate player and I am hugely honoured and excited for this challenge.”

 

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What Gatland likes about Lions skipper Hogg's leadership style

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