INJURIES and ailments may be unavoidable occupational hazards in rugby, but Stuart Hogg would be entitled to feel he has been subjected to more than his fair share of both during his time with the British & Irish Lions.

Four years ago on the tour to New Zealand, the Scotland full-back had to go home early after suffering a facial injury in training. This time round, he has missed the tourists’ last three matches in South Africa after being identified as a close contact of a member of the Lions management who tested positive for Covid 19.

Now, though, he is back. Back with the squad in Cape Town after being left behind in Johannesburg at the weekend. Back in the No 15 jersey for Saturday's match against the Stormers, the last outing before the three-Test series against the Springboks. And back captaining the team, as he did against the Sigma Lions in the first match in South Africa, and as he has done for Scotland, too, these past 18 months.

“I’m absolutely buzzing to be back, and hugely excited about another opportunity to represent the Lions,” Hogg said yesterday after being named as one of seven Scots in the matchday 23 to face the Stormers. “I’m looking forward to it. The main thing is that everyone is fit and well and healthy now.

“For me, the key was just to get into a good routine,” he continued when asked about how he had dealt with isolation. “It’s a long old time to be hidden away, so getting my routine sorted and making sure I was being as productive as I possibly could seemed to pass the time a lot quicker.

“It was challenging at times, but we had a little mini-isolation group and we had a good crack along the way and kept each other going. But I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. It was a horrendous few days but I’m delighted to be back.

“It became a little bit easier once the boys and everyone in the touring party left [Johannesburg]. I got a little bit of time to spend in the gym and managed to sanitise down about a million times while I was in there.

“So I got the chance to do everything I possibly could. I was carrying a little knock after a training session but I’m all good now and excited to get going again.”

This is Hogg’s third Lions tour. He was the youngest member of the squad in 2013, playing five games but being overlooked for the Tests against Australia. In 2017, he was very much in the running for a place in the three-match series against the All Blacks only to be thwarted by that training-ground accident.

“The experience I had in 2017 was something I kept quiet and almost to myself for a long time,” he recalled. “I felt going into that tour I’d been playing some good rugby and to have it taken away from me was bitterly disappointing.

“It probably took me a year and a half to two years to get over it and get back up and running and get excited about playing rugby again. But I had the hunger and the drive to try to get back here. 

“My focus all along was to make sure I gave myself every opportunity to represent the Lions again. And now that I’m here it’s about making the most of it.”

Hogg is joined in tomorrow’s starting line-up by four fellow-Scots: winger Duhan van der Merwe, scrum-half Ali Price, tighthead Rory Sutherland and openside Hamish Watson. Centre Chris Harris and prop Zander Fagerson, both of whom featured in the midweek loss to South Africa ‘A’, are on the bench. 

“It’s great to have Hoggy back  and he was very excited to see everyone,” Watson said. “Hoggy is quite a hyper guy anyway, so he would have been bouncing off the walls.”

Sixty or seventy per cent of places in the Test team are still up for grabs according to Warren Gatland, who talked up Price’s chances of making the No 9 jersey his own. “We’ve been pleased with the way that he’s gone,” the head coach said. “He’s looked sharp, he’s kicked well, he’s defended well - he’s had a really good tour. It’s a really good game for him to play in on Saturday and get an opportunity to put his hand up.”

Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones is on the bench after making a speedy recovery from a dislocated shoulder, while England stand-off Marcus Smith starts a Lions match for the first time following his call-up as cover for Russell. Hogg, in turn, will provide cover for No 10.

British & Irish Lions (v the Stormers at the Cape Town Stadium, Saturday 5pm BST): S Hogg (captain); J Adams, E Daly, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; M Smith, A Price; R Sutherland, L Cowan-Dickie, T Furlong, A Beard, J Hill, T Beirne, H Watson, J Conan. Substitutes: J George, M Vunipola, Z Fagerson, A Jones, S Simmonds, G  Davies, C Harris, L Rees-Zammit.

DHL Stormers: S Petersen; S Senatla, R Pretorius, D du Plessis, E van der Merwe; T Swiel, G Masimla; L Lyons, J Kotze, N Fouche, E van Rhyn (captain), J Schickerling, N Xaba, J du Toit, E Roos. Substitutes from: A Venter, K Blose, S Sandi, J Basson, M Theunissen, T Bursey, A van Reenen, J de Jongh, L Mazibuko, N Otto, L Zas, C Smit.