Rugby World Cup: Stuart Hogg laughs off the rise of 'Mr Greig' Laidlaw as cult hero in Japan
Star man Stuart Hogg is so often the centre of attention for Scotland but has found himself usurped slightly here in Japan as veteran scrum-half Greig Laidlaw has attained a bit of cult status with the hosts.
Full-back Hogg was speaking to the media in southern Tokyo today as the Rugby World Cup approaches fast and the Scots prepare to lock horns with the fancied Irish down the road in Yokohama on Sunday.
“‘Mr Greig’ is a hero wherever he goes [here],” said Hogg with a grin. “It’s been great to see. There has been a lot of support for Greig and for the Scotland team in general.
“We’ve had some fun with him [in Japan]. Anytime we’re walking through shopping malls we shout ‘Mr Greig!’ when he’s about five yards in front of him.
“Everyone then turns around and mobs him. It has been good fun.”
Hogg doesn’t begrudge his fellow Borderer a shot in the limelight but did, jokingly, suggested that his ego had been slightly bruised on occasion over in the Far East, where Scotland have prepared at a holding camp in Nagasaki, a city which has a link up with the SRU, before flying into the Japanese capital.
“There have been a couple of things I have been disappointed with,” said Hogg. “I was standing in the hotel the other night and someone approached me with a poster to sign.
“I was ready to sign and then he asked me if I was Finn Russell. I thought that would be the end of it and I said, ‘no, I’m not Finn Russell’.
“The guy looked at his sheet again and WP Nel came next. I think it must have been the haircut!”
Hogg has ditched the recent bleach blond look for a more serious cropped haircut but admitted that keeping a fun atmosphere going has been vital in what has been a long road in to Sunday’s crunch Pool A opener with world No 1 side Ireland.
“There are some characters in the squad who’ve been keeping us going. There’s always bus entertainment, there is a joke of the day and there’s a fair amount of songs to be sung.
“But it comes on the back of some hard work on the training ground.
“So we’ve had some fun here but we’re in Test week and it’s all about getting our World Cup campaign off to a good start with a win against Ireland.”
In Test match rugby there is no such thing as an easy game but if there’s a time to take on Ireland then I believe it’s now, before they build up a head of steam.
“We are fully aware of the challenge they will bring. But we are very much focused on ourselves and we’re determined to ensure we bring our ‘A’ game to the party.
“Defensively we will have to be spot on, we believe defensive will win the World Cup.”
Now aged 27, Hogg is more experienced and mature than when he burst onto the scene so young and his tally of 69 caps is a testament to a brilliant career, with plenty more to come, and he refutes any notion that this World Cup is the prime moment in the sweet spot of his stellar career to mark himself down as one of the true greats.
“Everytime you get the opportunity to play for Scotland there’s no better feeling than winning in that jersey,” he said.
“I take as much pride in every game I play. Hopefully on Sunday it will be my 70th cap but it will mean just as much as my first did back in 2012. Every single time you get to pull on this jersey there is no better feeling.”
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Follow Duncan Smith in Japan on Twitter @Duncan_Smith