Stuart Hogg axed as captain following incidents during the Six Nations - Ruck

Stuart Hogg axed as captain following incidents during the Six Nations

Gregor Townsend has decided to axe Stuart Hogg as Scotland captain after he was identified as one of six to break team protocol during the Six Nations.

The group are understood to have left the team hotel and visited a bar in Edinburgh after returning from Rome, where Scotland triumphed 33-22 against Italy.

Hogg and Finn Russell, who has been dropped from the squad completely, were disciplined for the breach along with Ali Price, Darcy Graham, Sam Johnson and Sione Tuipulotu, with the news being confirmed by the Scottish Rugby Union the day before they round off their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin.

The writing was on the wall for Hogg following the game against Ireland. During the post-match interview, he was heard saying “I’ll not miss that” as he left a bad-tempered chat.

“For Stuart, who’s been a very good captain for us over the last three seasons and led us to some great victories, we see this as an opportunity for him to play his best rugby and focus on that,” added Townsend.

“We believe he’s our best player and that’s what we want to get him to be over the next 12 months. As you can imagine, he cares so much about leading Scotland, he was disappointed.

“But he’s got behind the team and Jamie. And he’s viewing it as much as a positive as possible to make sure he can focus on playing his best rugby, which is the aim.

“We see a lot of captain and leadership qualities in Jamie, we have for a while. He missed out on the chance on the summer tour to get that opportunity, but he’s had it with Edinburgh at the start of the season.

“We see him growing into the role and being an excellent leader.”


Fullback: 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.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

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.”