Stuart Hogg won’t be overawed by the prospect of playing fly-half for the British & Irish Lions today according to defence coach Andy Farrell.
Hogg will wear the No10 shirt when the tourists take on a Combined New South Wales Queensland Country XV in Newcastle as they go looking for a fourth straight win in 2013.
The 20-year-old may be the youngest man on tour and more accustomed to playing full back than fly-half but Farrell has seen nothing that suggests Hogg will go into his shell at the Hunter Stadium.
“It's exciting for him, it's exciting for us and I think he's going to do a great job,” said Farrell.
“If you understand what he's about and what his make-up is, he wants to get in there at first receiver, even as a full back.
“He’s an organiser, he puts people in place, that's what he naturally does and if you talk to people that have coached him more than most they would tell you exactly the same.
“(We want him) to be himself, to bring what he's good at to the party. He needs to make sure he doesn't confuse himself too much by trying to facilitate all the time and he needs to bring his natural game to the party.
“He's got a lot of experience around him who will help him out a lot but, just watching the kid in training, it was his first run dictating to the boys on his inside and outside and he's been great.
“He's doing what a fly-half should do, dictating, putting them in the right place, but he's got X factor as well.
“He's got a long kicking game, he's been good at kicking at the posts in training and his passing and running game is exceptional.”
Hogg has been handed the playmaking duties in the absence of Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton who have been rested in New South Wales, although it was always likely that he was going to get game time at No10 at some point on tour.
Farrell junior and Sexton – the two recognised playmakers in Warren Gatland’s squad – have been involved in three games each on tour so far and both sat out training yesterday.
But Farrell senior says their absence from yesterday’s sessions was only precautionary and that neither player is carrying a serious injury of any sort.
“Like every game of rugby, guys have got little knocks and tweaks etc but there’s nothing serious,” added Farrell.
“Owen’s just got a bit of a dead leg, that’s all, so that’s precautionary.
“Jonny was just a little bit tight but he’s fine as well. There's no strain or anything, just a little bit of tightness and obviously with the previous injury that he's had before it's just a precaution. So he'll be back in the next couple of days.
“They’ve got to recover properly, especially with the flights, so they had training off, but they’re fine.”
Two men who will feature today are tour newcomers Alex Corbisiero and Ryan Grant, the loose-head props called up to replace injury victims Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins.
The pair arrived from national tours in Argentina and South Africa earlier this week, with England’s Corbisiero set to start in the No1 shirt and Scotland’s Grant named on the bench.
Farrell has been impressed with how quickly the duo have integrated into the squad – both on and off the field – although he admits they’ve had plenty of work to do to get up to speed with the rest of the squad.
“It's funny, because some of these boys have been together for five weeks now, some for three, and there's a lot of water goes under the bridge and there's a lot of things you keep on adding and moving on with.
“They've had their first training session now and it's as though they've been here for a week or two at least.
"There’s a lot of homework for those boys – they're not worrying too much about the jetlag, they've got to get over that as soon as they possibly can and get to their work, but they're working very hard and they'll be fine.”