It’s a strange time in rugby at the moment, with several players finishing their careers ahead of this year’s World Cup

You would have expected the likes of Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb and even Alun Wyn Jones to go to France and have their swansong, but they decided to bow out before then.

And now Scotland’s Stuart Hogg is another who won’t be at the tournament after confirming he would be retiring from rugby with immediate effect last weekend.

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He’s been one of the mainstays of the Scottish rugby team over the years and played a big role in Glasgow’s success as well - particularly back in 2015 when they won the Pro12 final against Munster at the Kingspan in Belfast, a game I refereed.

He was one of those players who when they had the ball would always look to beat defenders with a mazy run. There would always be a burst of excitement about him when he got the ball but he was also hugely talented in other areas of the game too.

And he certainly wasn’t shy in giving the referee his view, as well.

We had some great exchanges over the years but the one that most people remember came during the 2015 World Cup.

It was Scotland against South Africa at St James’ Park in one of the pool games. A few minutes into the second half, Stuart was charged down by Tendai Mtawarira - The Beast - and he rather milked the contact to try and get a penalty.

I saw the incident and wasn’t impressed with his actions so I told him so. “Dive like that again,” I warned him. “Come back here in two weeks and play [when the football is on], not today”

A clip of that moment went viral and what I said was described as the “quote of the tournament” by commentators, but most importantly it reminded Stuart of his responsibilities and how he should behave.

A lot of people don’t know that his dad, John Hogg, was actually a referee.

I remember John running the line for me in one of my first games up in Scotland and Stuart was there too, watching his father from the sideline as a young boy. I always said to him that I could see where he got his opinion on refereeing from.

He knew he had been caught out in that South Africa game, however, and I now know for a fact that he learnt a lesson that day.

I remember a while later I was running touch in another game, I believe it was Scotland v France, and I saw Stuart remonstrating with the referee quite a bit, being a little awkward and waving his arms about.

When I took charge of another Scotland game a couple of weeks later, he was playing and I told him in no uncertain terms that I didn’t want to see any more of the same behaviour that I’d seen from him against France.

You might have expected him to kick up a fuss but he just smiled and said: “Don’t worry Nigel, I don’t behave like that when you're refereeing. I learnt my lesson back in 2015!”

I told him his father wouldn't have been happy with that dive against South Africa and he admitted, to use his words, he’d “already had a bollocking” off of his dad for the incident.

But despite sometimes falling on the wrong side of the law on the rugby pitch, Stuart was always respectful. Even though he wouldn’t be afraid to challenge you and come forward to you, it was always done in the right way, in my opinion.

He will be sadly missed by Scotland at this World Cup. Of course, he may not have been at his best in France if he’d decided to see out his career at the tournament, especially if he’d be playing week in week out.

But his experience would be invaluable to the squad as they face a tough pool stage with Ireland and South Africa to play. He’s been at World Cups before and knows what they’re about, while he could also be called upon as a secure pair of hands for the occasional cameo.

Regardless, he will go down as an all-time Scotland great. It will be a shame not to see him at the World Cup later this year, but he’s had a fantastic career and it was a pleasure to referee him.

All the very best for the future, Stuart. Maybe refereeing could be next for you. Well, you've already been doing it for a few years anyway! Ha!