Hogg has joined TNT Sports after retiring before the World Cup

Stuart Hogg has revealed he was the slowest Scotland back in pre-season training and felt “old before his time” as he struggled to get excited for the World Cup before bringing forward his decision to retire from the game.

Full-back Hogg has swapped the pitch for punditry after joining TNT Sports, the new name for BT Sport, and in a sit-down interview with his new broadcasting colleague Ugo Monye, divulged how he felt “completely lost” in last year’s Six Nations having opted to forego all leadership responsibilities in order to rediscover his best personal form.

Hogg, who finished his club career at Exeter Chiefs where he won both the Premiership and Champions Cup in 2020, initially announced his plans to retire after the World Cup at the end of March following the Six Nations. However, he hung up his boots with immediate effect in July despite training with Scotland as part of Gregor Townsend’s wider World Cup squad.

The 100-cap hero cited his body’s inability to reach the high standards he sets himself as the main reason for calling it a day and although he is happy with the call, the 31-year-old admitted agonising over the decision left him in tears.

Hogg told TNT Sports: “It was a horrible few weeks. I remember getting to this point last year and going, ‘I’m absolutely buggered’. I was most emotionally and physically drained with the game. I was getting my knee operated on and it gave me a chance to work on other areas. Whether that be upper body bulk or fitness or anything.

“I came back and I just couldn’t get going again. My body dictates my mood and if my body is feeling rubbish then my mood is the exact same.”

Read more: Stuart Hogg looks at his career in pictures

Stuart Hogg slowest Scotland back in his own words

Hogg hoped things would change for the preparation leading into the World Cup but says he was in “agony” and had lost his love of the game. He added: “I just felt I was miles off the pace. Going through the speed gates – and it’s not the be all and end all – but I was the slowest back. I’ve never been that before. I was in agony. The hard pitches, the double sessions. I was knackered, physically and emotionally. We had a little holiday and came back here and I said to (my wife) Gill: ‘I can’t do it anymore’.

“It’s an absolutely horrible (realisation). I was 30 years old when I said I was done and I was like it’s far too young to be retiring. Age is just a number and fair play to those boys that play to 35 or 36 but I physically couldn’t. When you are not hitting your standards that I set of myself. I was training the hardest I possibly could and struggling to get moving the next day. I just felt that this is unhealthy and decided to say that’s it.

Related: Scotland Rugby World Cup squad

“The amount of times I broke down in tears because I thought I had to keep going and the realisation that I couldn’t. I thought that’s it, I’m done. As soon as I made the call I was a completely different person. Yes, it’s heart-breaking to stop and realise that that’s it done but I’d rather stop now when I’m happy than go to a World Cup and not feel like myself or achieve the standards that I set myself and not enjoy it. Because the love of the game had gone and when that’s gone it’s very hard to get that back as a player.”

Three-time British and Irish Lions tourist Hogg said Scotland coach Townsend could not have been better when he called to inform him of his decision but felt like he no longer belonged in the environment having lost his sense of purpose after going from captain to “normal player”.

“I was bricking it to phone Gregor, to be honest. He went through the selection process of involving me in the wider squad and there would have been big conversations about it,” explained Hogg.

“This time last year I was still Scotland captain. When I went into the autumn campaign, I said to Gregor, ‘From a leadership point of view, I don’t want to be involved in anything because I want to purely concentrate on myself and make sure I can get myself right. You told me I am one of the best players in the team, so just let me be that. That’s all I concentrated on and then I went into the Six Nations and 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 happened just like that. It was really, really tough as I went from captain to being a normal player. For somebody that’s had a leadership role for that long to then have nothing, it was like, ‘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.

Read more: Rugby line-up on TNT Sports

“The best thing about the conversation with Gregor was not once did he try and change my mind. He was really happy for me because all he cared about was me as a person. I felt a sense of love coming from there. He was concentrating on me as a person which I loved. He couldn’t have been any better and he said the door is always open.

“I’ve gone from being a player to No 1 supporter in a matter of minutes.”

Hogg was the Six Nations Player of the Championship in 2016 and 2017 and also starred under Townsend as Glasgow won the Pro 12 in 2015 but believes he has made the right decision for him and his family. Hogg once again lamented the fact his son had to play football outside alone as his body wouldn’t allow him to join in and with a fourth child on the way, a new adventure awaits in front of the cameras.

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