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Hogg's ready to come of age against Leinster

He has been compared with Brian O'Driscoll and he regards Rob Kearney as the best in the world in his position but in the absence of Leinster's two great backs, Stuart Hogg is looking to seize his chance to stamp his authority on today's RaboDirect Pro12 semi-final at The RDS.

Still in his teens, the Glasgow full-back's rookie season at this level which has seen him earn a lucrative full-time contract, has produced highlights that most players would be delighted with as they hung up their boots.

His try against England Saxons for the Scotland A team the night before the Six Nations Championship got under way left observers agog, while his hat-trick of tries against mighty Munster last month again showed a coruscating combination of pace and elusiveness.

In between times he could hardly, within the context of joining a failing Scotland team that was on its way to adding Six Nations humiliation to a disastrous World Cup, have made a more spectacular start to his Test career.

Receiving an apology from officials for their failure to award him a try on his debut was one thing, but scoring on his first start a week later was a stunning response to that potentially demoralising setback.

As a consequence it is reasonable for even Glasgow Warriors' more senior players to look to the youngster to offer a lead, albeit their failure to follow it earned him another apology last month when that hat-trick in Cork proved insufficient to take the team to victory.

It did get them a bonus point which they had looked unlikely to pick up at the interval and ultimately proved very important in giving them the upper hand in the race for play-off places, but that most recent visit to the Emerald Isle was a timely reminder of what they need to do today.

"It's good to get on the scoreboard and to get a hat-trick over at Munster especially was pretty good. I really enjoyed that game second half, but at the end of the day it's about the result," said Hogg.

"Al Kellock came up to me after that game and said I did my part, it's just the rest of the boys need to do theirs now, so we need to work hard as a team and hopefully things will happen for us.

"We got a bollocking at half-time from Sean Lineen and a few other boys and that's maybe what we needed but if you start like we did in the second half right from the start it could have been a totally different game.

"Of course they might not have made some of the changes they made, but we just have to get it right from the very start and hopefully it will be a really good game to watch."

There has, this week, been much talk among the Warriors about what they learned from the way they backed off Leinster in the first half of the first of their Heineken Cup meetings with them this season, resulting in them being taken apart.

However, as much as they took from that game the first half in Munster, which came after they had torn mercilessly into Aironi and Cardiff in the previous two weeks, was a reminder that Glasgow cannot dare to drop their energy levels or intensity for a moment when facing the best in the business, namely the top Irish provinces.

"These are the kind of games you have to get into early or you're never going to get in it. It's a case of getting ball in hand or maybe catching a high ball as early as you can. It's a game I really want to be involved in and I'm really looking forward to it," said the winner of a string of Young Player of the Year awards in recent days.

"Obviously they're going to target me with high balls and stuff, but I'm used to that now and it's just a case of taking the first one and getting the confidence up and then telling them to kick it to me more often.

"It will be tough and I'll need to be on top of my game along with every other team member, so we've just got to take it to them."

As they do so they have no way of knowing whether Leinster could have risked the likes of Kearney and O'Driscoll, but their withdrawal due to "niggles", is reminiscent of Lineen's decision last week to rest Al Kellock and Chris Cusiter from the starting XV that met Connacht.

In doing so he explained that he had full confidence in their understudies but admitted that for all that it was a vital match he might have risked them had it been the semi-final, just as the suspicion lurks that tonight's opposite number Joe Schmidt might have risked his main men had this been the Heineken Cup or Pro12 final.

Lineen was justified by the outcome last week as will Schmidt be if what remains a fearsomely powerful Leinster line-up can negotiate this match and, as he has indicated, he sees this match as an opportunity ahead of the Heineken final to gain match practise.

"You've got to get some game time under your belt, you've got to get some momentum and some rhythm, so we'll be looking to get some of that ahead of next week," said Schmidt.

The Warriors have been determined this week not to be offended by such observations. If Stuart Hogg sees enough of the ball, however, Europe's top team may yet be left to rue keeping their best until last.

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