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Stuart Hogg could grab the limelight for the Lions

Stuart HoggWhen full-back Stuart Hogg made his Scotland debut as a 19-year-old last year he was following in the exact footsteps of his mentor, the former Scotland and Lions centre Jim Renwick.

Until Hogg stepped onto the Millennium Stadium pitch, Renwick had been the last Scottish player to win his first cap as a teenager 40 years previously so it was perhaps only natural that under a shortlived SRU mentoring experiment the pair, both from Borders country, would be coupled together.

Although the scheme has ended, the two still frequently speak and Renwick, 61, has proudly watched Hogg go from making his professional debut to lighting up the first two rounds of this year’s Six Nations inside 20 months.

Comfortably Scotland’s best player in the 38-18 defeat by England, Hogg kicked on a gear leaving Italy chasing shadows in the 34-10 victory; if the Lions full-back berth was being selected purely on current form then the 20-year-old, a distant relation of George Best, would be the front runner.

Renwick told The Rugby Paper: “Whatever level Stuart has played at whether it has been schools, U18, U19, U20, for Glasgow or Scotland, he has made that step up with ease and I feel he could do that for the Lions as well.

“A lot of players rely on their size and strength to get ahead early in their careers but then they find the step-up whether in physicality or speed too much, but Stuart has never been like that.

“He obviously has a lot of speed but he has a rugby intelligence you don’t see from a lot of players that puts him one or two steps ahead.

“He realises what is around him in terms of space, where his team-mates are and gives them the ball at the right time.

“I was in a similar position to him with my size, but he will go on to be a better player than I ever was.”

Renwick, who won 53 caps for Scotland and was a Lion in 1980, played with Hogg’s dad, John, in the great Hawick team of the 1970s.

Hogg was a ball boy from the age of 13 before starting at fly-half in the first XV four years later.

That grounding, Renwick believes, has played an important part in his development as well as his future success.

“He’s a Hawick lad through and through so he has got an old head on young shoulders” Renwick added.

“There is a very rich rugby culture in the Borders. It is like in New Zealand where rugby becomes part of the fabric of daily life.

“You won’t see him getting too big for his boots – you don’t get away with doing swallow dive celebrations in the Borders.”

It is an assessment Sean Lineen, Hogg’s first coach at Warriors, agrees with and argues he would not be fazed by the pressure of a Lions series.

“The Lions rarely take youngsters,” he said. “It is not about blooding youngsters, it is about winning Tests.

“But on a fast track in Australia, he would thrive. He might be young but he has a very wise head on his shoulders.

“His main asset is his speed, which will be invaluable in Australia but he has the full range of skills. He can pass off either hand, he can kick high, he can kick long, he has a great step on him and is a sound tackler.

“He played for Hawick as a fly-half at 17 and down in the Borders you have to stand up and be a man. It is a tough territory, he might not be the biggest but that experience means he can handle himself.”

DANIEL SCHOFIELD

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