Stuart Hogg has gone from being dropped by his club to captaining the Lions in the space of a week.
It is an extraordinary reversal of fortune for the Scotland skipper after he was omitted from the Exeter side beaten in the Premiership final by Harlequins.
Despite getting only 25 minutes off the bench at Twickenham, Lions boss Warren Gatland had no hesitation in appointing Hogg for Saturday’s first game in South Africa against the Emirate Lions.
“I really like Stuart’s leadership style and the way he’s been with the team this week,” Gatland said. “He delivers clear and concise messages without rambling on and raving.”
Hogg has been put in a charge of a team which includes six Englishmen, a week after none started against Japan at Murrayfield.
Owen Farrell starts at inside-centre whilst Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Jonny Hill pack down in the forwards.
But it is Hogg’s appointment which is the most eye-catching – and Chiefs clubmate Hill has no doubt the fullback will fully vindicate his selection.
“Hoggy was absolutely gutted not to be involved in the final,” said Hill. “He’s not the sort of guy that would keep his powder dry for a Lions tour.
“He is one of the most professional players I have come across, and him being selected as captain this weekend is a reflection of that.”
Hogg has unfinished business with the Lions. Selected as the youngest Lion in 2013, he toured again four years later to New Zealand.
The second time he was expected to make the Test team only for a freak injury to force him off the tour before the start of the series.
“He is a guy that’s been on two previous tours and unfortunately hasn’t got a Test cap yet,” Hill said. “I know he’s trying to hunt that in the coming weeks.”
Hogg, 29, might have lost the Exeter fullback slot to Jack Nowell at the tail end of the season, but he had a Six Nations to remember – leading Scotland to wins in England and France.
He needs no telling that the last Scot to start a Test for the Lions was Tom Smith back in 1997. To get another crack at ending the tartan drought is an opportunity he does not intend to squander.
“For me this is a huge, huge honour,” he said. “As a kid growing up I watched all the Lions DVDs and videos and I had a dream of representing them one day.
“To be given an opportunity to captain the side is absolutely amazing. I am hugely excited for the challenge.”
LIONS: Hogg (capt); Rees-Zammit, Harris, Farrell, Adams; Russell, Price; W Jones, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Hill, Lawes, H Watson, Faletau.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Vunipola, Fagerson, Henderson, Simmonds, Davies, Aki, Daly