Stuart Hogg has no regrets about the end of his brilliant rugby career. Photo: Telegraph Sport/Adrian Sherratt
At the end of Six Nations 2022, Stuart Hogg fell out of love with rugby. It didn't matter that the full-back had won every domestic competition he had competed in, played three rounds of British Lions and Irish Lions and loved his time in the southwest of England with his club Exeter. It didn't matter that at this stage Hogg was in a winning position to captain his country to the World Cup a year later, with optimism around a cohort of players that Scotland named the best in 20 years.
Suddenly, as his body creaked, love seeped out of him as quickly as sweat on any of his 100 caps for his country, and with it, his temperament. This championship ended in disgrace; Unauthorized pub crawling in Edinburgh with teammates has led Scotland manager Gregor Townsend to appoint Jamie Ritchie as Scotland captain for the 2022 autumn squads. Hogg soon realized that his time was up.
"I didn't really enjoy playing rugby" Hogg told Telegraph Sport ahead of the Chiefs' On Sunday, the Champions Cup semi-final against La Rochelle will take place. "My body didn't feel good. I was away from my family a lot. [My wife] Jill suffered a little from being away from home, and I didn't like it at all.
“I was working with my sports psychologist, Ben Scott, and the big word ‘change’ kept popping up. – then I was taken off the captain's armband and I wondered if that would be a change. But I still felt the same way when I went to camp. I felt like I was still doing the same job as when I was captain. And I just felt what my body felt… the time had come. It was as if my body was telling me that it was time to pull myself together and start all over again"
So, a few weeks ago, Hogg did something he'd never done before; he listened to his body. At the age of 30, the Scotland defender with 100 caps has confirmed that this season will be his last and the World Cup later this year will be his swan song. With Exeter still hunting for both domestic and European silverware (only the latter is now possible), the timing of Hogg's announcement seemed curious. However, now with Chiefs' trophy-winning dynasty launches its own “Last Dance” in this season's Champions Cup Hogg is a new man. His wife and family will be returning to the outskirts of Hawick next weekend and he is “genuinely excited about life after rugby”. – but don't expect to see him coach anytime soon.
Hogg was one of the Scots' best players in the last 30 years . Photo: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli
"Time to go home" Hogg says. “Over the past few weeks, I have been like a monkey, because I knew that I was going to retire. As soon as I announced this, I thought: okay, I can relax and go play. I really enjoyed the last few weeks. This season I have struggled with injuries: knee surgery, heel surgery, ankle surgery — injuries that kept me out of the field for a while. But for the last few weeks, I've really enjoyed it. We are in a great position in Europe and there is genuine buzz and buzz around this contagious place.
"And I felt at ease as soon as I spoke to my parents, wife, agency, and also Rob [Baxter] and Gregor; as soon as I said that I was retiring, I immediately relaxed.
"Since then, my wife said that I became a completely different person. It scared me because the last time she said it was during Covid, during the lockdown [when there was no rugby]. And I don't want my body to affect my mood, and I don't want to take it out on the wrong people.
"I'm in no rush to dive into anything either, but I would like to be an expert. I love rugby, but not enough to coach.
". I remember working with BT right after my announcement and Ben Kay said, “It's a little different.” 39; Well, I'm a little different. 'Why fit in when you can stand out' that's what my mom used to say. Now I can just focus on being me"
'Miscellaneous' fits. Wearing a pair of paint-splattered crocodiles dyed so brightly that Jackson Pollock could turn up his nose, Hogg reiterates that while his retirement may have seemed abrupt, he is much more than a rugby player. He is primarily a father and husband, but also a jockey, golfer and loyal Scot. He is “a normal person who was lucky enough to play rugby”. and seriously tried – in an era when rugby fights for individuality – to show its versatility through social media. However, it hasn't always been easy, even if he's been overwhelmed by the reaction – both inside and outside Sandy Park – to his farewell resignation tweet.