Nigel Owens pays tribute to Stuart Hogg, includes him in his all-time XV - Ruck

Nigel Owens pays tribute to Stuart Hogg, includes him in his all-time XV

Popular Welsh referee Nigel Owens has paid tribute to retiring Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg.

He wrote in his column for Wales Online: “He’s been one of the mainstays of the Scottish rugby team over the years and played a big role in Glasgow’s success as well – particularly back in 2015 when they won the Pro12 final against Munster at the Kingspan in Belfast, a game I refereed.

“He was one of those players who when they had the ball would always look to beat defenders with a mazy run. There would always be a burst of excitement about him when he got the ball but he was also hugely talented in other areas of the game too. And he certainly wasn’t shy in giving the referee his view, as well.

“We had some great exchanges over the years but the one that most people remember came during the 2015 World Cup.

“It was Scotland against South Africa at St James’ Park in one of the pool games. A few minutes into the second half, Stuart was charged down by Tendai Mtawarira – The Beast – and he rather milked the contact to try and get a penalty.

“I saw the incident and wasn’t impressed with his actions so I told him so. “Dive like that again,” I warned him. “Come back here in two weeks and play [when the football is on], not today”

“A clip of that moment went viral and what I said was described as the “quote of the tournament” by commentators, but most importantly it reminded Stuart of his responsibilities and how he should behave.”

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vf54njFullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

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Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”