WHEN Stuart Hogg brings the curtain down on his 13-year professional rugby career after this autumn’s World Cup, he will do so with his legacy secured as one of the most gifted and influential players to have ever represented Scotland.

The full-back – who picked up his 100th cap against Italy earlier this month – announced his intention to retire via social media yesterday lunchtime.

“After RWC 2023, my professional rugby journey will end and I will be retiring from the game,” he wrote. “As a young kid growing up in the Borders, all I wanted to do was to play rugby for Scotland. I feel privileged to have represented my country on 100 occasions, [to have played] on three British & Irish Lions tours and [to have represented] some amazing clubs. I couldn’t have asked for any more.

“I’ve so many people to thank and I will get round to you all. First and foremost is my wife Gill, my parents, my brother and my kids. I’m so lucky and proud to have such a loving family that have supported me every step of the way.

“Rugby has allowed me to meet some incredible characters, make lifelong friends, travel the world and be part of some unbelievable experiences that I will cherish forever.

“Knowing what lies ahead, I have a real hunger to play the best, most enjoyable rugby of my career, finishing the season strongly with Exeter Chiefs before attacking the opportunity we, as a nation, have in France.

“After the tournament, a new career beckons and I will attack [it] in the same manner as I play the game. I hope I have done you proud.”

It would be hard to overplay the revolutionary effect the teenage Hogg had when he burst onto the international scene as a 16th-minute replacement for Max Evans against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in round two of the 2012 Six Nations, making the break which led to Greig Laidlaw’s try which broke the team’s four-match scoring drought. Hogg should really have had a try of his own in that match, but referee Romain Poite wrongly ruled that he had knocked the ball on as he stretched to gather Nick de Luca’s pass.

Hogg was added to the starting XV for Scotland’s next match against France at Murrayfield a fortnight later, when he belatedly scored the first of his record 27 tries for Scotland.

During the preceding decade, Scotland had been a blunt attacking force. Hogg infused the team with pace and courage. In the five Six Nations campaigns before his arrival on the scene, Scotland averaged 4.6 tries per tournament. That rose to 5.25 per tournament in the next four championships, before hitting 13.25 tries per championship when he and Finn Russell – the twin talismans of the last decade – were at their pomp between 2016 and 2019.

After the disappointment of

the 2019 World Cup, Hogg asked for and was handed the Scotland captaincy by head coach Gregor Townsend, explaining that he wanted to lead from the front as the team sought to fulfil its unfulfilled potential.

The role did not rest easily on the bullish and often prickly Borderer’s shoulders, and he was gently eased aside after the 2022 Six Nations, following the storm in a teacup which erupted when it was leaked that he and five other players had broken team protocols by visiting an Edinburgh bar to celebrate Scotland’s round-four victory over Italy.

In recent years, he has faced unduly harsh criticism by some keyboard warriors with short memories, who have focused on and exaggerated his flaws and mistakes, whilst failing to recognise the huge value he adds to the Scotland team as an attacking force with ball in hand, a thunderous kicker and a relentless competitor.

There will be regrets, such as his ill-considered and unnecessarily public dalliance with Ulster in 2014, which cost him his place in the match-day squad for Glasgow Warriors’ PRO12 Final clash against Leinster that year.

Hogg ended up staying at Scotstoun for five more seasons – helping the side to PRO14 glory in 2015 – before moving to Exeter Chiefs in 2019, where he was part

of the team which won a Premiership and Champions Cup double in 2020.

On the field, his highs will include a brilliant solo try against Ireland in 2016, a virtuoso performance as Scotland came within a whisker of beating New Zealand for the first time ever in November 2017, and leading the national team as they broke a 38-year losing streak at Twickenham in 2021.

The lows will include his red-carding against Wales in

2014, the freak cheekbone injury which cost him the chance to be a key Test player for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand when

he was at the height of his powers

in 2017, and dropping the ball

over the line with the game in the balance against Ireland in Dublin

in 2020.

Ross Ford is currently Scotland’s most capped male player with 110, and this announcement means Hogg won’t surpass that mark unless Gregor Townsend’s team reach the World Cup Final with the full-back (who will be 31 by that point) playing in all four warm-up matches and throughout the tournament without a break.

There is no doubt that he would have dearly loved to break that record, but professional rugby demands a heavy toll both physically and psychologically – Hogg has decided to leave at the right time, and on his own terms.