Hogg eyes Halfpenny showdown
March 8, 2013
Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg has been tipped to claim a place on the British & Irish Lions' tour to Australia later this year © PA Photos
Hogg has been one of the stars of this year's Six Nations, notching tries against England and Italy, while Halfpenny has been one of the most consistent performers on the international stage for the last 18 months. Unsurprisingly both have been tipped to earn a place in the eagerly-awaited Lions squad but coach Warren Gatland is spoilt for choice with Ireland's Rob Kearney and England's Alex Goode and Mike Brown also leading contenders.
The 20-year-old Hogg, who made his Test bow against Wales a little over a year ago, is not getting too carried away with the attention but it relishing the challenge posed by Halfpenny and his Wales team-mates. "The Lions has been flung about but I just try to concentrate and take each game as it comes," Hogg told The Scotsman. "It's a cliché, but I've learned that you have to because you don't know what's round the corner. I'm a big believer in what's for you won't go by you so, if it comes, it comes. If not, I will keep working on my game. The Lions is a long way away. So, all I am concentrating on is Scotland versus Wales."
On his rivalry with Halfpenny, Hogg said: "You always want to get on up on your opposite number, but, at the end of the day, it's Scotland versus Wales. Both teams are in good positions in the table and whoever wins will be genuine contenders. Leigh is one of the best full-backs in the world. He is up there with Israel Dagg and Rob Kearney. He is a fantastic player and has been a fantastic servant for Wales. As for me, I do wonder where the last year has gone, but I can't rest on my laurels. I need to keep working hard and trying to be the best rugby player I can be."
The in-form Halfpenny, who slotted six from seven attempts at goal as Wales won 26-9 over Italy in Rome in their last outing, has revealed that he still suffers with nerves. "I still get awfully nervous, it is a horrible feeling in your stomach," he told Sport Wales. "On the morning of a game I go out and have a few kicks to get a few nerves out and build a bit of confidence which helps me prepare for the game. Even then it is still nerve-racking but I still enjoy it and view it as a privilege - kicking for Wales has always been a dream of mine and the fact I am doing it makes me feel very lucky."
Hogg's form has caught the eye of many - including Kearney - whose side were beaten by the Scots last month. "He's had a great start to the championship. A lot of people seem to be surprised by it, but I'm not because he has been Glasgow's quality player for the last two years," he said. "He's a bright spark of Scottish rugby and is a player who gives Glasgow and Scotland that crucial go-forward. It was very noticeable at Murrayfield how when he got the ball there was a change in the atmosphere, people were excited.
"I'd love to go on another Lions tour because it is fantastic to be a part of, and you want to have the best players who are on form in that environment, and Stuart and Leigh are definitely up there," added Kearney. "It's going to be very competitive, but, if Stuart can continue his form against Wales and France, then there is no reason why he wouldn't be well on the way to a first Lions tour."
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