Stuart Hogg is set to win his 50th Scotland cap this weekend aged just 24 and Chris Paterson has paid tribute to the full-back, stating he has the ‘X factor’.
Hogg’s two tries on Saturday in the win over Ireland in the Six Nations opener took his tally to 15 in 49 appearances for his country – and he now has France in his sights in Paris on Sunday.
While Hogg himself has been playing down the achievement of being on the cusp of earning 50 caps for his country in just five years, others like Scotland’s record cap holder Paterson believes the milestone should be marked.
The 38-year-old said: “Through my work with Scottish Rugby I have been lucky enough to work with Stuart at various times over the last few years and what strikes me most about him is his willingness to keep on learning.
“Some young players who climb the levels quickly can rest on their laurels and perhaps stop working as hard, but I have never seen that with Stuart. He is always working hard and trying to get the edge on opponents while he is not scared to ask questions to the coaches around him to help him improve.
“What is also so good about him is that he has stayed grounded and is a great role model to youngsters who are coming into the game now.
“He can often be seen back down in Hawick watching the first XV or the local youth teams play and that is an inspiration to others.
“He has a good family around him and is grounded and he is just a very exciting player to watch – the kind you would pay to see play – and he gets crowds cheering and excited which at the end of the day is what it is all about.”
Paterson, the former Edinburgh Rugby man who won 109 caps for his country, first crossed paths with Hogg when the latter was a teenager.
“I first was aware of Stuart when he was around 16 or 17 years of age and he was on the rugby course run by [now member of the Scotland coaching team] Richie Gray at the Borders College.
“We were playing a game of touch on my visit there and this nippy little youngster with a bit to say for himself shot by me and showed incredible footwork.
“We then had a kicking competition and boy could this young guy kick the ball far!
“I said to Richie straight away ‘who is this young kid?’ and Richie smiled and said ‘we have high hopes for him, as you have just seen he has some talent’.
“Now when you see talented young players you know that they all won’t go on and make it to the top of the game for various different reasons because the path to pro rugby can be a tough one.
“However, after that day I always kept an eye on how Stuart was doing and it didn’t surprise me when he started to get tongues wagging with his performances for Hawick YM and Hawick on the Kings of the Sevens circuit.
“Everywhere you went in the Borders at that time people would stop and ask you about this young guy and it was clear that he had something different, that ‘X factor’ that everyone talks about and craves, but very rarely finds.”
Hogg was soon turning out for Scotland at age-grade level and was signed up by Glasgow Warriors.
A debut came for the pro side at the age of just 19 in early 2011 and then in early 2012 he scored an amazing try on his Scotland ‘A’ debut in a win over the England Saxons at Netherdale.
Many feel that Hogg is already a certainty to be the British & Irish Lions starting No.15 in the Tests in New Zealand this summer.
Paterson said: “Certainly if he keeps going the way he is then Stuart has got to be firmly in Warren Gatland’s thoughts for that spot and to go on a second Lions tour at his age would be quite something.
“He is a much improved player since the 2013 Australia trip, but that experience will have been good for him.”