Former Scottish Rugby captain Stuart Hogg has admitted his early retirement has been “heart-breaking” as he said he felt “miles off the pace” to Ugo Monye during an interview with TNT Sports.
Playing the last of his 100 test caps during this year’s Six Nations, Hogg was due to play in one final Rugby World Cup before hanging up his boots.
However, Hogg shocked the rugby world when he announced his immediate retirement from the game mere months from the tournament speculation was rife as to why he now?
Now for the first time, Hogg has spoken on why he has stepped away following a “horrible period” of realisation that his time at the top of the sport had come to an end.
“I felt I was miles off the pace. Going through the speed gates, I was the slowest back. I’d never been that before. I was in agony with the hard pitches and double sessions. I just got to the point where I was knackered, physically and emotionally. We had a little holiday, and I came back here and said to Jill, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’”
Realising his physical decline, Hogg took the decision to end his career on his terms rather than drag out a prolonged goodbye.
“But I’d rather stop now, when I’m happy than go to a World Cup and not feel like myself and not achieve the standards I set myself and not enjoy it. The love of the game was gone, and when it’s gone, it’s very, very hard to get back as a player.”
Adding to his deep feeling of antipathy towards his new role within the Scottish set-up was the realisation that he had to inform head coach Gregor Townsend of his decision.
“I was bricking it to phone Gregor, to be honest. He went through the selection process of involving me in the wider [World Cup] squad, and there will have been big conversations about it. This time last year, I was still Scotland captain.
“When I was into the autumn campaign [in 2022], I said to Gregor ‘From a leadership point of view. I don’t want to be involved in anything. I was to go in there and concentrate on myself. You’ve told me I’m one of the best players in the team; just let me be that.
“That’s all I concentrated on. Then I went into the Six Nations, and I just felt completely lost. I’d been in the leadership group for the best part of eight years, and I just felt I had nothing there anymore. I just felt completely lost.”
“Going into this World Cup, I felt like I was old before my time. There was nothing really there that excited me.
“It was really, really tough, because you went from being captain to being a normal player. For someone who has had a leadership role for so long to have nothing, I felt, ‘Wow, this is a bit strange’. I explained everything to Gregor, and it was almost as if I didn’t belong in that camp anymore.”
Hogg retires having won both the English Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup competitions with the Exeter Chiefs. Prior to this, he won the Pro12 title with the Glasgow Warriors whilst Townsend was the head coach in the 2015 season. In terms of personal accolades, Hogg was named the Six Nations player of the tournament in both 2016 and 2017 whilst also touring with the British and Irish Lions on three occasions.