BRITISH and Irish Lions legend Jeremy Guscott insists Scotland star Stuart Hogg has already streaked clear of the competition for a starting jersey for this summer’s tour to New Zealand.
Hogg, last year’s Six Nations player of the championship, was already regarded as a hot tip for the Tests against the All Blacks. But Guscott is adamant his stunning brace of tries in Saturday’s dramatic victory over Ireland has made the 24-year-old a stick-on favourite to make Warren Gatland’s selection.
Guscott, who kicked himself into Lions folklore with the winning drop goal in the decisive second Test against South Africa in 1997, reckons Hogg’s display against Ireland was not perfect.
But the former England international centre believes the full-back’s searing pace and massive kicking game should be enough to see him take on the All Blacks.
He said: “Before kick-off, Stuart Hogg had been talked of as the probable Test full-back for the British and Irish Lions’ tour of New Zealand in the summer.
“On the basis of his two-try performance against Ireland, the Glasgow man is not just ahead of his rivals, he is clear of them by quite some distance.
“There is nothing subtle about him.
“For his second try against Ireland, he threw a hint of a dummy to throw full-back Rob Kearney off the scent, but it was not one of classical proportions where you are trying to sell the cameraman as well.
“What he has most of all is just out-and-out pace. If he finds a yard of space either side of any player – it doesn’t have to be a slow forward – they run the risk of being exposed.
“Added to which he has got a huge boot, when he connects cleanly out of hand. It is one of those old-fashioned spirals that just keeps on flying and flying.
“He missed two out of his six tackles on Saturday, but that is more a result of the position he plays in rather than any defensive deficiency.
“Full-backs are often exposed as the last line of defence in one-on-one situations, where the odds favour the attacker far more than when the defence is less stretched.
“As long as you are not a revolving door of a tackler, I think it is accepted that you are going to be a bit hit or miss.”
Guscott was impressed with the innovation displayed in Scotland’s ‘sensational’ third try against Ireland, when centre Alex Dunbar was added to a line-out five yards from the visitors’ line and was able to force his way over.
However, he fears Vern Cotter’s side could suffer because of a lack of bulk when they attempt to make it back-to-back wins with a first-ever Six Nations success against France in Paris.
Guscott added to the BBC: “Scotland travel to France next week, where one of their weaknesses could be exposed.
“They do not have many heavy-duty ball carriers, apart from Josh Strauss in the back row. France however have a gargantuan pack.”