No Wallaby distractions for Hodgson
Matt Hodgson says that he has not even thought about being recalled to the Wallabies, with his focus solely on leading the Force to their best-ever season.
The 32-year-old won the last of his six Test caps for Australia back in 2011, and whilst he would love to play for his country again the thought of a recall to the national squad has not even crossed his mind.
The Force have had an outstanding season so far, with seven wins from their ten games, and Hodgson has set a high standard for the rest of the team to follow with an incredibly high work rate.
With openside flanks David Pocock and Liam Gill both sidelined with long-term injuries there has been speculation that Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie could turn to Hodgson for the Tests against France in June, but the Force skipper told rugby365 that he has not even considered the possibility.
"I haven't even thought about it, I don't even know when they name the squad. If I make it I would love to play for Australia again, it has been a while between caps but it is not something I have thought about and if the opportunity arises I will grab it with both hands.
"There are many great sevens around at the moment, so I will just keep playing well and hopefully I get picked but if not I will just keep working for the Force," he said.
Hodgson was a foundation member of the Force, and he said that they have never played better than this year, with one more win needed to make it their best on papaer as well.
"As a team this is definitely the best we have ever played, we looked at it on Monday and we have equalled the club record with seven wins. That is the best the club has ever done so if we get a win this weekend we achieve our first goal for the year," he said.
Another big goal is going unbeaten in South Africa, so the game against the Stormers this weekend gives them the chance to tick two boxes at once, but Hodgson said that they are expecting a tough game from the Cape side irrespective of their position on the standings.
"Not many teams can come over to South Africa and go home 'two and zero', but there is a lot of hard work and things we need to work on before we get there.
"It is a good opportunity for us going into the Stormers game with a lot of confidence and a big win behind us, but the Stormers are going to be tough there," he said.
The Force skipper said that apart from the influx of South African players and coaches, another big factor in the Force's success this year has been the way the players have taken responsibility for their performances.
After early defeats to the Waratahs and Brumbies the big turnaround came in their third game against the Rebels which saw them blow the Melbourne side off the park in the second half.
"We are closing out games much better, I think it comes back to that belief, if you look at the first two games of the year we weren't happy with our performances and we were quite harsh on ourselves, not the coaches coming down on us but the players.
"We were quite open and honest about it with each other and we have a players-only review every Monday where everyone is open and can say what they think. It is just that honesty and openness within the group so it is the ownership that comes from the players.
"There was a big moment in that third game where we came out and put 32 points on, and that just flipped a switch for us knowing that we can do it and we can score points and in the last month our defence is something that we have relied on," he explained.
Although Hodgson has been a menace at the breakdown this season he put the Force's success in that area down to a team effort which sees every player compete on the floor when given the chance.
"I think fetchers are one to 15 at the moment, I think you saw on the weekend Marcel [Brache] getting a couple of turnovers, props getting turnovers, so I think we work hard as a unit there and definitely our defence helps our breakdown but it is defintely a one to 15 role rather than just a back row role now," he said.
Although he may be on the wrong side of 30, there is no doubt that Hodgson has hit some of his best form this year, and if he leads the Force to their first-ever play-offs then he will be tough for the Wallabies selectors to overlook.
By Michael de Vries