x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Youthful enthusiasm fuels Scotland's Stuart Hogg to be one of the best

As Scotland aims to end a streak of four consecutive losses to France, 19-year-old Stuart Hogg hopes to emulate the talismanic ability of one of his distant relatives: George Best.

As Scotland looks to break a four-game losing streak to France, Stuart Hogg is hoping to prove as talismanic as his distant relative, George Best, was for Manchester United.
As Scotland looks to break a four-game losing streak to France, Stuart Hogg is hoping to prove as talismanic as his distant relative, George Best, was for Manchester United.

Stuart Hogg will make his first Test start against France at Murrayfield on Sunday, and if that were not enough to preoccupy the teenager's mind, this week he also discovered he is related to George Best.

Hogg, 19, explained his link to the late Northern Irish football great by telling the BBC: "To cut a long story short, it turns out that my granny's granny was a Best.

"It's pretty amazing and I hope I can follow his example in the good ways. He was renowned for his skill on the pitch.

"I'm not the kind of person that does daft stuff off it," Hogg said in a reference to Best's alcoholism.

A Manchester United legend, Best's brief spell with the Edinburgh club Hibernian was notable mainly for his being found in a hotel bar hours before a match after a night out with Jean-Pierre Rives, the France rugby captain whose side had lost to Scotland at Murrayfield the day before.

Hogg has been making fans pay attention solely through the quality of his play.

He came close to scoring a try against Wales after coming off the bench during Scotland's 27-13 loss in Cardiff last time out.

Andy Robinson, the coach, is in no doubt about his quality.

"His composure has been great, the way that he's been able to handle the whole Test arena and his ambition to play as well," Robinson said.

"He's got freedom to play," the ex-England flanker and coach added. "He's an individual. His character is great. The more the pressure, the more he wants to put himself up there."

Hogg will be the first teenager to start a Test for Scotland in 40 years, since Jim Renwick, one of Scotland's greatest centres, ran out to face France as a 19 year old at Murrayfield in 1972.

Scotland won that match 20-9, with Renwick scoring one of their three tries.

And for Scots fans seeking more good omens as the current side bid to end a run of four straight defeats, Renwick is Hogg's mentor; both men are products of the Hawick club.

Renwick has been encouraged by what he has seen of his protege thus far, telling The Independent: "A lot of people have been saying it's been a breath of fresh air, seeing someone taking on a man and beating him on the outside."

France may be favourites for Sunday's game in Edinburgh but the World Cup finalists remain cautious about their trip to Murrayfield. France have won 12 of their past 13 encounters against the Scots, with Murrayfield witnessing just one home victory over Les Bleus since 1996.

Philippe Saint-Andre's side were convincing 30-12 winners over Italy first time out although the late postponement of their second match against Ireland, with a capacity crowd already in the Stade de France, checked their progress and left them having to play matches on four successive weekends.

Scotland's slide includes losses to both England and Wales which have left Robinson's men contemplating yet another battle to avoid the wooden spoon.

Few give the Scots much hope of victory this weekend but Imanol Harinordoquy, the flanker, said: "Maybe they frighten us even more offensively than the Irish did defensively. They can move the ball quickly and through several phases, which is hard to defend against."

However, he also highlighted Scotland's weaknesses in the first two rounds of the tournament when he added: "But they can lack both patience and precision."