Stuart Hogg will miss the remainder of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand due to a facial fracture sustained in last weekend’s match against the Crusaders.
The Lions faced the Highlanders in Dunedin this morning, losing 23-22, without Hogg who was one of the favourites to play full-back against the All Blacks in the three-Test series starting on June 24.
One of only two Scots named in coach Warren Gatland’s original 41-man squad, Hogg was caught in the face by team-mate Connor Murray’s elbow as he chased his own kick in the 12-3 victory in Christchurch last Saturday.
Scans confirmed a facial bone fracture and Hogg will return home for further treatment, the first of the squad forced out of the tour by injury.
The Lions also confirmed there would be no replacement called up at this time, with the likes of Anthony Watson, Leigh Halfpenny, Jared Payne, Liam Williams and Elliot Daly all capable of filling in at full-back.
“He’s absolutely gutted,” Gatland told the media. “He saw about four different specialists and one said he could be okay in seven to 10 days and the others said there was a possibility he’d lose his sight if he played.
“We’ll see what happens tonight but we think we’ve got enough cover at full-back. We’ll see how we get through tonight’s game but we’re good enough in that area at the moment.”
Welshman Halfpenny, player of the series on the successful 2013 tour of Australia, now looks certain to take the No 15 jersey for the matches against the All Blacks.
Halfpenny does not offer as much attacking threat as the aggressive-running Hogg but is one of the best place-kickers in European rugby.
Payne had the chance to put his hand up for the Test side when the versatile Ireland international played full-back against the Highlanders today.
Hogg, who also toured Australia four years ago but did not play in any of the Tests, featured in this year’s tour opener against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians as well as against the Crusaders.
“I’m gutted to be leaving the tour at this stage,” he said.
“It is an honour to have been involved in a second British & Irish Lions tour and I have hugely enjoyed my time with the squad and I’m very excited about the potential of this group.”
Before the Lions departed for New Zealand they lost No 8 Billy Vunipola to injury, while his England team-mate Ben Youngs pulled out of the tour for family reasons and was replaced by Scottish scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw.