Scotland v Samoa: Hopefully we can lift the nation - Stuart Hogg

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Stuart Hogg is the only player to start all of Scotland's matches at the World Cup
Hogg is the only player to start all of Scotland's matches at the World Cup
Rugby World Cup Pool B: Samoa v Scotland
Date: Saturday, 10 October Venue: St James' Park, Newcastle Kick-off: 14:30 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland & 5 live; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

It was early in the second half at St James' Park last Saturday when Stuart Hogg produced his moment of amateur dramatics.

In Scotland's game with South Africa, Hogg was brushed by the 'Beast' Tendai Mtawarira then hurled himself to the floor as if taken out by sniper-fire.

"Dive like that again and come back here in two weeks to play," was Nigel Owens' put-down of the full-back, a humorous line from the referee that merely added to Hogg's mortification.

On Friday, it was the first thing that Hogg was asked about and, in fairness to him, he didn't shirk it. "I've taken a fair bit of stick about it and I won't be doing it again, that's for sure," he said.

"I made a mistake. There's no room in rugby for that. I've apologised to the boys."

Scotland full-back Steven Whittaker shows his disappointment against Poland
Scotland failed to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals after drawing 2-2 with Poland on Thursday

Hogg might have been hours from Hampden, or Dublin, but the reverberations of what happened in the world of football on Thursday night were still felt in the well-heeled corner of Newcastle where the rugby team have set up camp.

Scotland's failure in Euro 2016 qualifying was a subject that was on most people's lips.

Hogg watched the game in the company of a few team-mates, saying: "It was bitterly disappointing that the boys couldn't qualify. There was a lot of passion involved and hopefully that'll be the same when we play Samoa. Hopefully we can lift the nation.

"I like to keep myself to myself, but I'm rooming with Sean Lamont and it was me and him and little Greig [Laidlaw] came around as well. We have a cup of tea club after dinner in our room. We watched the football and wee Greig was going pretty daft at the telly."

More from rugby:
John Hardie overcoming early doubters
Vern Cotter's men face point of no return
This is Samoa's final, warns Fa'atau
How Scotland can reach the last eight

If the rugby team is to avoid the same dismal fate as the footballers then Scotland must beat Samoa on Saturday.

Gordon Strachan's team had a glorious opportunity and, in recent months, they managed to blow it. Vern Cotter's team also have a huge chance of moving forward and dare not do the same.

Stick to the game plan

Hogg talks about the past week , the 18-point loss to South Africa and the lessons they have learned. "Last week was a minor blip," he said. "We tried to take them on [physically] and it didn't work for us. We went away from our game plan at times and it turned into a strength contest against them.

"Our game plan was about trying to move their big pack around and trying to keep the ball in play when we were kicking and at times it worked and at times it didn't. When it didn't work, we were getting smashed back behind the gain-line.

Stuart Hogg applauds Scotland fans
Hogg is wary of the threat big-hitting Samoa pose

"We had two physical games beforehand [against Japan and the USA], but nothing compared to what the South Africans were bringing. We moved away from the game plan and we got a rollocking for it, from pretty much every coach. We needed that.

"The good thing is that we have learned from it and we move on. We know that we're better than that. We were disappointed in our individual performances and as a collective."

Beware wounded Samoa

Samoa are hurting, that's obvious. They've been a huge letdown in this World Cup and they're carrying that weight of disappointment heavily. There's back-biting going on at home about the way the game is being run and there's also an air of victimhood in their camp.

Samoa hit hard, but they don't always hit fairly. They feel they're being picked on by the game's bigwigs.

Maybe there is some truth in that. Listening to them talk at their press conference on Thursday, there was an unmistakable sense of a wounded team.

What is it they say about a wounded team?


"Samoa are a massive physical side and it will be tough," said Hogg. "We have our game plan and, if we can execute it, I'm more than confident that we can get this win.

"We'll try to grind them down. They have some key players that we need to shut down in defence and if we can keep them quiet and then execute at the other end then we'll be in a good place.

"The longer these teams stay in a game, they grow arms and legs, so when we have opportunities, we have to take them. Every chance we get we have to keep that scoreboard ticking over.

"We learned a lot from last week and we can't revert back to type and how Scotland teams of old used to play. We tried to take teams on physically and it didn't work for us.

Samoa perform the haka before facing South Africa
Samoa are a physical side who are hurting from their poor World Cup results so far

"We've worked all summer, and during the Six Nations, on this game plan and it's how we want to play. It's completely different to what we did last week. We're going back to it and hopefully it'll get us the win."

Scotland are hot favourites and have a full squad to pick from, which is a welcome surprise given the attrition rate at this World Cup. They also have players in form, players like Hogg who can create something out of nothing.

Hogg in full flow is a wondrous sight, a thoroughbred runner, a devastating rugby player.

"We have to believe in ourselves," he adds. "If we don't believe then it's never going to happen.

"We're a really passionate group who are working incredibly hard trying to achieve something special.

"We're going the right way, but we have to get this win to show what we're about. We need to take a step closer to glory."

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