Why Hodge is willing to give up the Wallabies' No.10 role
SPOTLIGHT: Despite replacing injured Quade Cooper to pilot the Wallabies to a stirring Rugby Championship win over the Pumas, Reece Hodge is ready to hand over the No.10 jersey for the second Test in Argentina.
Hodge came off the bench early in the second half after Cooper ruptured his Achilles and says he’s happy to again assume the utility role for Saturday’s clash in San Juan, leaving Noah Lolesio or James O’Connor as chief playmaker.
Having played everywhere in the Australian backline apart from halfback, his versatility meant coach Dave Rennie could load up on forwards amongst his reserves to meet the power-packed Pumas.
“I think at the moment I’m just happy to play that utility kind of position and week to week I’ll fit in wherever needed,” 27-year-old Hodge said from Argentina on Wednesday.
“Eight weeks ago I missed out on the squad for (the) England (series) and for me every opportunity to be in the Test squad is a privilege.
“I enjoyed getting extended minutes on the weekend despite being so gutted for Quadey sustain that injury but I genuinely am willing to play wherever the team needs me.
“If we were to sit down now and say that I could contribute as part of the match-day squad heading into a World Cup, then it’s something I’d be happy with; I’m just thrilled to be back in the squad.”
Hodge said the serious injury to Cooper was a big blow for the team.
But he backed youngster Lolesio, who started at five-eighth during the England series, or veteran O’Connor to rise to the challenge.
“Quade’s a very experienced player and he’s an expert at getting the best out of people around him so we’re not hiding the fact that it’s a massive loss for us.
“But Noah steered us to a series win against France last year and was very solid in that England series as well.
“And then James has played 50-plus Tests and his form at the start of Super Rugby season for the Reds was outstanding; he was probably one of the best players in the competition early on so we’ve got two really good options heading into the game this weekend.”
O’Connor came off the bench for the second England Test in Brisbane but, in his return from troublesome hamstring issues, looked off the pace.
Hodge said his 32-year-old teammate was now in better shape.
“Rabs (O’Connor) has got his body in really good shape and he’s been training well the last month and really pushing for selection,” Hodge said.
Whether it’s him or Noah who get the nod heading into this weekend we’re confident that both of them are in great physical shape and both training really well so whoever steers us around will have the full confidence of the squad.”