Relief for fans after injury before Six Nations
INJURY: Rob Baxter has allayed fears that Stuart Hogg is a major Six Nations doubt for Scotland after Gregor Townsend’s Test level skipper limped out of last Saturday’s Premiership win by Exeter over Gloucester at Sandy Park.
It was near the interval when Hogg departed the action to be replaced by Tom Hendrickson in a league game eventually won by Exeter on a 28-20 scoreline.
Four days later, the definite prognosis on his injury is uncertain but Baxter is confident that Hogg will be back in harness for the Exeter European pool finale, either against Toulouse on January 16 or the following week back at Hogg’s old stomping ground of Scotstoun in Glasgow.
That update will be a relief to Scotland fans who would have been worried that the hamstring problem could be serious enough to leave Exeter fullback Hogg in a race against time to be fit for his country’s 2021 Six Nations opener away to England on February 6.
“You saw Stuart Hogg came off early against Gloucester with a tight hamstring. He looks doubtful. We are still assessing him. He has had a scan. It doesn’t look too bad but he is a doubt,” said Baxter on Wednesday morning ahead of next Saturday’s Premiership trip to Wasps.
“We’re hopeful that he will be back in and around the latest in Europe. It’s like anything with these initial periods of these injuries, what a lot of medical teams would tell you is the swelling etc makes people relatively hard to assess. At this stage, we are hoping it is relatively short-term – and yes, it will be Europe and he will be back available for Scotland as well.
“Jannes Kirsten came off with a bang to his eye, he is a doubt, so we have picked up a few injuries but every team is picking up injuries. Wasps picked up injuries as well. That is the nature of the game at the minute, organising and managing our squads is what it is all about at the moment. All you can do through this period is to keep fighting and hoping that the guys who get on the field can see things through.
Exeter’s win over Gloucester was a successful return to action for the Chiefs after they had seen their round two European game away at Toulouse cancelled due to a Covid outbreak in their ranks, an issue they weren’t given the all-clear from until late on Christmas Eve.
“Was it a bit of a fraught week? It was. We had very low training numbers of only people who continually tested negative right through the process which meant the team never ran together. The tests that allowed us to play on Boxing Day we didn’t get our last tests in until half-eleven on Christmas Eve,” explained Baxter.
“One of the last things I did on Christmas Eve was I spoke to Tony Rowe to say that’s it, all the tests are in now, and we had a 100 per cent right through, completely negative for everyone tested and it was only at that stage that Tony was able to give the staff at Sandy Park the OK that the game was definitely going ahead.
“The positive is we got through it all and we got the team on the field who, despite it not being their best performance, did enough to get us a bonus-point win against what was a good performance from.
Exeter’s looming trip to Wasps comes ten weeks after the sides met at Twickenham in the 2019/20 final, a showpiece that eventually went the way of the Chiefs. Baxter is looking forward to the challenge the rematch will pose.
“I have been watching their games and I’m expecting them [Wasps] to be good. They are enjoying how they are playing. They are playing with a lot of energy. A very good win up at Sale. Nobody appreciates more than myself how tough it is to go up there and get a win. They have got confidence.
“There will be an element of them wanting to get their own back from the final to prove a point. We’re going to have to turn up there and have a little bit more energy than we had at the weekend which I am assuming we will do and just get ready for what will be a fast-paced game. It’s something we’re needing as well, a tough challenging game away from home. They should be the things that start to get you ready for the return to Europe.”
Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass