When Stuart Hogg’s name appeared on the Scotland teamsheet for Sunday’s Six Nations clash against France, the Glasgow full-back was set to win his 50th cap.
What makes that so remarkable is that Hogg is just 24 years old, but such is the stature of this powerful and incisive runner that he is not only a certain starter for Scotland but also widely expected to wear the No.15 shirt for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand this summer.
“I think it’s synonymous of the modern game that a guy of just 23 or 24 years of age can trot up 50 caps,” said Scotland’s assistant coach Jason O’Halloran.
“He’s been such an important player throughout that period and he’s certainly a talisman for us at the moment.”
Hogg scored two tries in Scotland’s surprise 27-22 win over Ireland last week in their Six Nations opener and was his team’s standout performer.
“He’s got quality players around him. I’d like to think that as dominant as Stuart was last week, we’ve got other threats on the field as well,” added O’Halloran.
“That makes him all the harder to look after when you’ve got Huw Jones inside of him, as well as Tommy Seymour and (Sean) Maitland around him as well, and Finn (Russell) on the inside with Alex (Dunbar).
“So we’ve got threats across the back line. He’s a magnificent guy who has a good way about him. He’s always got a smile on his face, he’s willing to play.”
Hogg is an integral part of a Scottish side that has earned plaudits for an attractive, attacking, running game.
And O’Halloran said this is no longer the Scotland of old that would hope for poor conditions and try to battle their way to a tight victory on the back of forward grunt and landing penalties.
“We want to be in control of our own destiny, we want to win or lose the game by the quality of our own performance, not turning up and relying on the opposition playing poorly to sneak a few penalties or maybe some sort of intercept try or turnover with our defence,” said the former All Black international.
“We want to construct tries with the quality of our attacking game and put them under pressure with our defence, and being good both sides of the ball.
“But we don’t want to win because they play badly.”