IT has only been eight weeks, not nine-and-a-half, but pre-World Cup training camp has still been a form of masochism for Stuart Hogg.

“It has been a nightmare if I am honest,” the Scotland full-back said. “There are only so many times you can hide people’s kit or jump out on people. Thankfully John Barclay has been too tired and not been able to jump out on me.

“There is a time and a place to be the class clown but I have been working incredibly hard,” added Hogg. “That has been eight weeks together and normally if that was the Six Nations we would have dispersed and gone back to our clubs by now.”

Not that Hogg’s status as one of the jokers of this Scotland pack should be mistaken for anything other than total focus.

The days when his nutrition and fitness regime was anything other than impeccable are long gone, even if his fun side came out as best man at his best pal Euan Riley’s wedding at the weekend.

“There was no rum and milk,” Hogg says with a smile. “Strict professional. No, I’m trying to be in the best nick I can possibly be in.

“If the fitness levels fall I’m not going to be on the flight to Japan.”

After a brief trip down to Exeter to get his family settled in following his big summer move, the summer’s preparation has taken Hogg and the rest of this squad to the outposts of Portugal and St Andrews.

But it is only in the past 10 days or so the contact has ratcheted up a notch.

It is safe to say that, when the first of four World Cup warm-up meetings – back-to-back meetings against first the French and then Georgia – gets under way in Nice late on Saturday night, this group of Scotland players will be ready to put in some hits.

Not that, if selected, he and his team-mates will be getting carried away and blowing a gasket in the opening 10 minutes.

“We are old enough and wise enough to realise this is an ordinary game of rugby, a Test match,” said Hogg.

“It is going out there now and having some fun and hopefully getting a win. It has been a long time coming and the boys are champing at the bit to get out there. The 23 at the weekend has the chance to get the ball rolling.”

While Eddie Jones took the ­decision to name his 31-man England squad yesterday, Gregor Townsend was never of a mind to name his squad so early.

There are still decisions to be made as the head coach whittles down his 40 remaining names to 31 on Tuesday, September 3, just three days before his final tune-up match at home to Georgia on Friday, September 6.

The flight leaves for Asia the following Monday, with a pivotal opener against the Irish kicking off just before 9am UK time in Yokohama.

Hogg, approaching his second World Cup with Scotland, with a Lions tour under his belt too, is putting his experience to good use.

“There’s a lot of experience within the squad now as well as a lot of young boys coming through who are asking the right questions and are willing to learn and improve,” he says.

“The boys are buzzing to get to the World Cup and, for the first time in a long time, if everybody is fit we are in a very good place. I would hate to be the gaffer picking a 31 that’s for sure. There will be some disappointed boys who have worked incredibly hard.”

With a base of fitness under their belts, the real prep work on our pool opponents has yet to start. But a weekend that saw Australia blow New Zealand away and England get the better of Six Nations champions Wales suggests this is going to be a wide-open World Cup.

On the negative side, hosts and pool opponents Japan illustrated how much of a threat they could be as they defeated USA to win the Pacific Nations Cup. One major focus has been defence, after a few key mis-steps during the Six Nations.

“Yes,” said Hogg, “but for us we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves. We want to try to play the fastest rugby in the world and we believe we are in a good place with our fitness. We’re ready to fire into the games now. We’re getting bored having no games at the weekends. If we start looking too far ahead we’re going to slip up in these games. We have four massive Test matches before we get to Ireland.”

Hogg’s back pages include a tour of Japan with Vern Cotter’s Scotland back in 2016 that culminated in two narrow wins. It gave him an insight into the heat and humidity he will experience there, not to mention a visit to a fish market that was something of an offence to the nostrils.

“It was hot,” he said. “The conditions were really tough. The humidity levels were incredible and the ball was like a bar of soap at times. That is where taping the fingers came from.

“We didn’t have much time to sample the culture because at the end of the day we were playing Test matches,” he added. “There will be some time when boys can explore but we have to go out there and win. The sightseeing can take a backward step as far as I am concerned.”