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What the Lions are saying about Hogg only making the Exeter Premiership final bench

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Lions assistant coach Steve Tandy has shared his thoughts on the decision by Exeter to keep Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg on the bench for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final versus Harlequins in London. The Lions are currently in Edinburgh preparing for their eve-of-departure game versus Japan at Murrayfield and the four-strong Exeter contingent are the only remaining players yet to link up with Warren Gatland’s squad for their eight-match, three-Test tour in South Africa.

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Hogg had been a regular pick in the Exeter team since he completed the Guinness Six Nations on the high of the March win away to France, but the potential Lions No15 Test starter had the rug pulled from under him when Chiefs boss Rob Baxter decided to bench him for last weekend’s league semi-final against Sale.

Baxter admitted on Wednesday that he held discussions with Hogg at the start of this week to ensure there were no grievances following the full-back’s demotion to the replacements but he has not been able to dislodge Jack Nowell from the No15 jersey and he will be on the Twickenham bench for the showpiece finale to the English club scene just four weeks before the first Lions Test in Cape Town.

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“Look, we don’t know how good Stuart is or the form he is in,” said Tandy, who has worked with Hogg in recent years in his role as Scotland defence coach. “You look at the squad Exeter have got, someone like Jack Nowell is a heck of a player and Rob Baxter sees the ins and outs of it.

“For me, I know Stuart and I know what he is. Obviously, it is a little bit surprising but it is not my place to comment on selection for Exeter because Rob Baxter knows his players’ ins and outs and he knows what it takes to win competitions. That [selection] is up to the Exeter boys.”

When the Exeter four do link up with the Lions for the flight to South Africa, 25 of Gatland’s players will have had a two-week start on them while another eight have been in camp since the start of this week. It will leave Hogg, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds with a bit of catching up to do but having seen how quickly the players who joined up with the Lions for week two quickly got up top speed, Tandy has no major concerns after the delayed arrival of the Exeter quartet.

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“I know Warren has maybe connected with them a little bit but it is important to leave them alone from my end, just concentrate on the team here but also they have got a big game to prepare for so you don’t want to be confusing or taking the attention off what is really important for them at the time. I’m sure they will be up to speed pretty quickly when they come in. You see the Sarries guys, Kyle (Sinckler), Tom (Curry) coming in, these guys are unbelievable players and they picked up on the messages really quickly.”

The Lions were forced into making two changes to the XV originally selected to face Japan, Tadhg Furlong and Justin Tipuric coming in for the back spasmed Zander Fagerson and the concussed Hamish Watson, but Tandy reported a clean bill of health following Friday’s captain’s run at Murrayfield.

“Everyone is still okay, everyone has come through the team run,” he said. “Everyone was really excited, moving around really well, and there was real excitement. The boys can wait for it. Tomorrow [Saturday] can’t come quick enough… Everyone wants to get off to a win. Two weeks training, a couple of boys here a week, Ultimately we are focusing on performance and if we perform to the standards we have been training the outcome will hopefully look after itself.”

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What the Lions are saying about Hogg only making the Exeter Premiership final bench

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