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What Owen Farrell did on Tuesday to inspire Lions full-back Hogg

By Liam Heagney

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It can’t be easy for the seasoned Owen Farrell, a starter in all three Lions matches in the 2017 drawn Test series versus New Zealand, to make do with a place on the bench in the current series versus the Springboks, but Scotland captain Stuart Hogg has hailed the influence still being wielded by the England skipper despite being behind Dan Biggar in the out-half selection pecking order.

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Farrell stepped off the Lions bench last weekend to play 13 minutes as a replacement for Biggar in the Test series opener and he will again be held in reserve for this Saturday’s rematch back in Cape Town despite the Welsh player’s issue with a concussion.

Not since an England game versus the USA at the 2019 World Cup had Farrell occupied a bench role for a Test match before last weekend’s 22-17 Lions win, but the late penalty scorer has shown himself to be a squad player willing to muck in for the greater good rather than throw toys out of his pram over the way Warren Gatland has picked his Lions starting team for the Springboks series.    

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Matt Dawson on the 1997 Test series winning Lions tour to South Africa

 Asked who has ratcheted up the intensity ahead of a second Test where the Lions can clinch the series with a match to spare, Hogg said: “I have learned a huge amount about what needs to be said and when it needs to be said. Alun Wyn (Jones), an absolute legend of the game, has hit the nail on the head this week with what he has said.

“And somebody that has really, really impressed me in the last few weeks is Owen Farrell. He speaks really, really well. He gives you a huge amount of confidence to go out there and execute your role. 

“And if you don’t quite get it right he is quick to jump on you at that opportunity as well but he spoke on Tuesday after the session and not everything was perfect, we had some tricky weather conditions to deal with but we got out of that session what we needed. It was scrappy at times, we know it is going to be scrappy in the games, but he spoke incredibly well after that and I left that training field in a much better place than what I initially thought. As I say, I have learned a huge amount from a lot of boys in this squad and I am absolutely loving the opportunity to get better.”

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The tour to South Africa has been third time lucky for Hogg in terms of finally making the Test team. Previous trips in 2013 and 2017 unfolded without him lining out against either the Wallabies or the All Blacks, but he claimed the No15 jersey versus the Springboks despite getting benched last month by his club Exeter for their two Gallagher Premiership playoff matches.  

“I’m hugely excited,” enthused the Scotsman about the prospect of the Lions clinching a rare Test series success in South Africa. “These are the biggest games I have ever been involved in and I have played a lot of times for Scotland and have played big club games but to be involved in a Lions Test match series is absolutely incredible and I’m loving every opportunity that I am getting but I also understand I have a role and a responsibility within this team to execute tomorrow [Saturday]. 

“That is the kind of pressure I am putting on myself to perform. I am hugely excited and the kind of character that I am, between and the game is the worst time for me because I can get too hyper and have far too many coffees but I will enjoy the build-up like everybody else and get excited about taking on the Springboks.”

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What Owen Farrell did on Tuesday to inspire Lions full-back Hogg

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