Stuart Hogg: I was annoyed that Gregor Townsend had to tell us to work harder

Stuart Hogg admitted Scotland needed a boot up the backside at half-time before they were able to overcome Italy in the first Group B match of the Autumn Nations Cup.

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg grounds the ball over his own line under pressure from Italy centre Federico Mori.
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg grounds the ball over his own line under pressure from Italy centre Federico Mori.

The visitors trailed 11-7 at the interval before eventually winning 28-17 in Florence.

The Scots scored four tries to secure a bonus point but they were run ragged at times during the first 40 minutes.

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Hogg, the Scotland captain, said the players were stung by the half-time criticism from head coach Gregor Townsend.

“We knew the Italians were going to come and be physical, try to shut us down in defence and carry hard in attack,” Hogg said. “That came as no surprise, but we didn’t really turn up in the first half which was a bit disappointing, but we got there in the end.

“Gregor touched on the fact that we weren’t really working hard enough and as players that hurt us. I was pretty annoyed that Gregor had to say that but it gave us the kick up the backside we needed. I said to the boys at half-time that nobody questions our work-rate and physicality again, and we seemed to turn it around in the second half to get the result.

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“Full credit to Italy, they were very, very good in the first half. In the second half I felt we were always in control.”

Tries in the second period from Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and George Turner added to the first-half touchdown from Duhan van der Merwe but the final scoreline flattered the Scots.

“We didn’t feel like we were in a good place,” Hogg said of the first-half display. “We weren’t performing in the way that we know we can.

“I said to the boys as we were walking in at half-time, we’re going to get it handed to us because we pretty much deserved it.

“It was delivered in a manner that was going to get the best out of us. It hurts me when people say we’re not working hard enough.

“I said that to Gregor after the game and he actually agreed with me. He liked it.

“We asked boys to stand up and be counted - and to empty the tank. We knew we had the players on the bench who could come on and make a difference.”

A heartening aspect of the match was Scotland’s refusal to panic when things were not going their way. Trailing 17-14 deep into the second half, Hogg opted to kick for the corner rather than go for three points when awarded a penalty. The decision was vindicated when Cummings scored the try that gave the Scots a lead they would not relinquish.

“We’ve got a fair amount of experience in this team,” said Hogg. “Sometimes in games you feel like the momentum is against you. But I always felt like we were in control. We were never flustered or fazed. We stuck to our task and, when our opportunities came, we took them.

“We stayed patient throughout the whole game, which was something we had spoken about all week. I backed the boys to go to the corner and deliver – and they did exactly that.”

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