Grant Gilchrist has no regrets and backs Stuart Hogg to be a strong Scotland captain
Edinburgh lock looks back on his brief captaincy role
Almost six years ago, which is an eternity in professional rugby terms, Grant Gilchrist was appointed the leader of the nation’s rugby team for an autumn Test series back in 2014.
Life gets in the way, as we all know, in this case a broken arm playing against Lyon in the European Challenge Cup, and then Scotland head coach Vern Cotter turned to the now retired Greig Laidlaw to captain the side.
In a week dominated by the Finn Russell fiasco, Gilchrist is sanguine about his swifty-terminated flirtation with the national captaincy and gave his full backing to Stuart Hogg.
“He will still be a cheeky chappy. I’m sure he won’t want to be serious all the time but he’s definitely a guy who takes his rugby very seriously,” said the 6ft 6in lock of Scotland’s new captain who is set to lead the team into a daunting away game against Ireland in Dublin next Saturday.
“Anybody who has ever trained or played with him [Hogg] knows that. When you’re off, you’re off and it’s important we have a good time off the field. That togetherness is important but with Hoggy and the rest of the boys we switch on when we’re in a rugby situation and ready to and take things on board from the coches.”
Hogg replaces Gilchrist’s best mate Stuart McInally as Scotland captain. The lock from Lornshill Academy in Alloa and the hooker who was head boy at George Watson’s College have become best mates. They were born on the same day, August 9, 1990, and have been through a lot together, including a season of co-captaincy at the Capital pro team which didn’t work out.
“I don’t feel there’s been much change, he’s been a leader in this team for a long time,” said Gilchrist of Hogg’s elevation to the top job on the field. “So I think it’s business as usual, there’s not been a massive change of role. He’s spoken to the boys and always speaks well as he has done down the years.
“There’s maybe a little bit more onus on him but there’s good leadership around him. Certainly he’s developed as a leader over the past four or five years.”
Gilchrist’s best pal McInally was appointed World Cup captain but didn’t enjoy the best experience in Japan. Form dipped, his starting place was lost and an admission that the captaincy had taken a toll was admitted.
Gilchrist expects the man they call ‘Rambo’ to come firing back on full cylinders, though. “I think he learned a lot from it. He’s not changed,” said Gilchrist. “I think he [McInally] is an outstanding leader. He’s captain at Edinburgh and was a great captain for Scotland. His role to the outside public might change a lot but internally it won’t.
“We always have a leadership group. It’s never one man. He will find himself with as much responsibility away from the public eye as he did before in-house.”
Asked if he felt that Hogg taking on the captaincy would take a weight off the Edinburgh hooker’s shoulders, the lock said: “It’s hard for me to comment. I didn’t think it burdened him [McInally] that badly. That was a perception.
“Hoggy’s going to be a good captain for us and it’s not going to change how Rambo goes into games.
“We’ll need all the
leadership we can during the Six Nations.”