Hodgson makes case for the defence
May 21, 2010
Charlie Hodgson's two year absence from international rugby began after being hauled off in Auckland © Getty Images
England fly-half Charlie Hodgson insists he has addressed the defensive issues that have kept him out of international rugby for two years.
Hodgson endured a miserable tour of New Zealand in 2008 after being dropped in response to his performance in England's 37-20 first Test defeat in Auckland. The Sale playmaker was targeted by the All Blacks' ball carriers and was substituted after just 50 minutes after a glaring missed tackle on Ma'a Nonu.
Rob Andrew, England's stand-in coach on the tour, was scathing in his criticism of Hodgson's defence at the time and said, "Some bits of Test rugby aren't optional. Test rugby is about trying to make sure you don't have many weaknesses because you get found out. That is a challenge for him to address."
The comments prompted Hodgson to strengthen his tackling and the 29-year-old has been rewarded with a call-up for the summer tour to Australia and New Zealand. And he admits he feared he might never don the white jersey again.
"I've worked a lot on every aspect of my game but defence was one of the key issues that Martin Johnson spoke to me about after the 2008 tour," he said. "I've had to go away and work on that with the coaches at Sale. Hopefully it is an area of my game that is improving.
"I guess some of it was to do with technique, getting yourself in the right position at the right time. After what happened in Auckland, there was always fear in the back of my mind that I'd played my last game for England. But I've been concentrating on how I've been playing for my club and Martin Johnson has rewarded me by picking me to go on tour.
"It's been tough to enjoy it at Sale because we've been struggling. It's been a hard last few months of the season but that has worked for me. If you enjoy it, you feel more relaxed and you want to express yourself on the field."
Hodgson, who has won 31 caps and made his debut in 2001, refuses to speculate on whether he is drinking at the last-chance saloon.
"It's not for me to say. If the media or anyone else wants to think that, okay, but for me it's an opportunity that I've been given again," he said. "I've taken enough of a battering over the last few years to know you can't get bogged down and worried about things like that.
"For me personally it's about enjoying the experience. It's been a few years since I've been involved. I'm enjoying the opportunity I've been given again and I'm looking forward to the challenge again. I don't know how much game time I'll get on tour but whatever time I get I'll take it."
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September