After a month in the South-West Stuart Hogg has had a chance to reflect on his decision to move the Exeter Chiefs. Having explored the Exmouth and Sidmouth beaches as well experiencing the traditional Tar Barrels celebration, Hogg is sure he has made the right decision.
David Challis was able to sit down with Chiefs’ star signing and discuss settling into Exeter, the impending visit of his former club Glasgow and Exeter’s chances in the Champions Cup.
Settling Into the South-West
“It’s a lot drier” joked Stuart Hogg when asked what the biggest difference between Exeter and Glasgow was. He then went onto comment on his enjoyment of the “countryside and fresh air”. Getting out of the “concrete jungle” of Glasgow appears to suit Hogg as has settled into Exeter just fine.
You can tell the camaraderie that the Chiefs boys have as our interview was derailed twice by teammates joking around. First by Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie shouting from the other side of the room. Then by Jack Yeandle sticking his finger into Hogg’s ear.
Forwards Coach Rob Hunter was quick to praise the Scotland star and his ability to settle into the squad.
He noted that;
“he’s got off the plane, got in, and got on with it”
Just demonstrating the sort of character that Hogg is.
Facing his Former Club
Stuart Hogg! ?? https://t.co/ZJRuDoenaI
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) November 16, 2019
We then delved into more serious topics. Namely the visit of his former side Glasgow in round 2 of the Champions Cup. Hogg is excited by the challenge although he admitted that “I’d have like to have found my feet and had a couple of seasons” before he had to face Glasgow.
Facing a former club will be a new challenge for Stuart as this is the first time he has moved in his career. However, he fully focused on “contributing towards a good win”.
The challenge of Glasgow will obviously be a huge one. Both sides won their opening matches against Sale and La Rochelle and are targeting a run in Europe. For Stuart Hogg, these are the games that he came to Exeter to be a part of.
Exeter’s win away at La Rochelle was probably the performance of the first round of the Champions Cup. Winning away in France is no mean feat and something that is not lost on Hogg as well as the rest of the squad. Hogg remarked that after the match they could have probably played another eighty minutes and;
“the annoying thing is we had to wait another week before playing another game”
However, despite getting such a big win Hogg pointed out that last weekend was one thing but “having the ability to back it up is another”.
That, in a nutshell, is the test for Exeter this year. They have always had the capability to put in big performances on the European stage. Look no further than Montpellier away two years ago. However, they often follow up with a poor one, namely Gloucester at home last season.
Over the last few seasons, Exeter has placed an emphasis on the Champions Cup. After cracking the Premiership Europe was the final frontier and one of the reasons Stuart Hogg was brought the club.
Having players like Hogg who are used to big knockout style games will be key to their success and his calmness is infectious. When asked about the pressure of European Rugby he simply said;
“the only pressure we feel is the stuff we add on ourselves”
In terms of personal pressure, Hogg is relishing being part of such a strong squad with such great competition for places. He believes it is driving him on as a player.
The ability to ‘crack Europe’ so to speak is a fine art and does not come easily. Forwards Coach Rob Hunter admitted that “we’ve always been a couple of years behind where we felt we are with the Premiership” and that it has “taken as a group of coaches time to adjust”.
The arrival of the likes of Hogg and Exeter’s seeming comfort with the knockout nature of the competition should stand them in good stead. There appears to be a different air around the club compared to previous years when it comes to Europe.
Striving to Improve Personally
Hogg did not just come to Exeter to have success as part of a team but also to improve individually. His drive was clear for all to see and hear when we spoke to him this week.
“becoming a professional rugby player is one thing…but staying there is another”
When asked about the Lions in two years’ time Hogg was quick to shrug the questions off. Pointing out that there is a lot of rugby to play between now and then. He knows that he needs to continue to improve personally to force himself into the equation.
It is plain to see that the move to Exeter has been a happy one for Hogg and his family. Exeter fans will hope that this translates to performances on the pitch. With the arrival of his former club in the Champions Cup we may be about to see the very best of Hogg in an Exeter just weeks after his arrival.
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