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Stuart Hogg hopes to end trying season on a high at Commonwealth Games

REDEMPTION can come in many forms.

Stuart Hogg hopes to recover his best form by winning a Commonwealth medal for Scotland at Ibrox. Picture: SNS
Stuart Hogg hopes to recover his best form by winning a Commonwealth medal for Scotland at Ibrox. Picture: SNS

Appropriately enough for Stuart Hogg, a young man born and brought up in the Borders, it could come in the form of seven-a-side rugby. That is what he hopes as he prepares for his first professional taste of the cut-down version of the sport in the Sevens and the City tournament in London today before running out at the Commonwealth Games in two weeks' time.

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"To be honest I have not had a great season," he admitted. "Performance-wise I have only hit form for a month or two and we all know what happened in the Six Nations. So it has been a difficult season but this is a chance to end it on a high.

"If you make a mistake the next thing you do has to be a positive and this is a positive thing for me at the end of the season. It is exciting, good to be back. I need to go out and enjoy my rugby; do my individual role that will help the team. We have set a goal of winning a medal and I would like to be part of that."

Ever since Icarus flew too close to the sun and crashed into the sea, there have been few who have plunged from on high as quickly as Hogg. A year ago, the golden boy of Scottish rugby was the youngest player on the Lions tour of Australia - one of only four Scots on the trip - and the world lay at his feet. His plunge back to reality has been spectacular, public and brutal.

Since he came home little has gone right. Niggling injuries hampered him, there was that infamous red card in Cardiff at the end of the Six Nations followed by an overall slump which left him out in the cold as a spectator while Glasgow, his club side, fought their way through to the league semi-final and final. Hogg went from top of the pile to unwanted baggage in only a few months.

The first stage of the recovery came on the summer tour during which his tries against the United States and Argentina were key moments in the wins. He was also one of the few to cause South Africa any sort of problems with a couple of solo breaks which might have produced more with better support.

That was where the idea of a late dip into the sevens was first mooted, with the only hiccup being the need to persuade his girlfriend, Gillian, to switch plans for their planned summer holiday in Greece from July to August.

"Scott Johnson [Scottish Rugby Union's director of rugby] raised the idea with me on the last week of tour,"said Hogg. "Tommy Seymour [whom Hogg replaces in the squad] was struggling with his neck and when Johnno asked if I would like to play I bit his hand off. I have not had much rugby since the Six Nations and this was a chance to pull on another Scotland jersey. It is a great opportunity.

"I've had a lot of learning to do but I've worked hard and I'm looking forward to a bit of a run out. The structures, the laws, it is difficult but I feel I have grasped it all. The crowd will be massive and a good contingent will be Scottish so it is an exciting time."

In some ways it was surprising Hogg was not in the initial group. Although he has not played sevens since turning professional, Hogg was a regular in Hawick colours on the Borders Sevens circuit when he was young - his last tournament was Jedburgh 2010 - but, more to the point, he tends to play 15s as though he was playing sevens so all the signs are that he should be a natural.

"I am honoured to be able to pull on a Scotland jersey at the Commonwealth Games," he added. "I hope we can put in a performance the nation can be proud of."

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