Reece Hodge has no qualms continuing to be Australias “Mr Fix-It Man” and plugging whatever holes are required in the backline ahead of a tantalising series against the Irish.
In the backs, the No.13 and wing positions appear to be the three key spots still up for debate ahead of Saturdays first Test in Brisbane.
Hodge, who plays his club football for the Melbourne Rebels, has started at outside-centre five times in Super Rugby – twice in 2016 and three times this season – but it is expected that either Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani or Curtis Rona will get the nod there.
As for the wing, Hodge has been out on the edge in eight of his last nine Wallabies appearances. The one exemption was when he slotted in at No.10 against Japan when Bernard Foley was ill last November.
Interestingly, despite starting half of his 24 Tests on the wing and playing there on 18 occasions all up when you factor in the times he has come off the bench, Hodge has never worn a No.11 or No.14 jersey in Super Rugby.
From 39 games, he has played the most at inside-centre (20), far more than at fullback (11), outside-centre (5) and five-eighth (2).
A jack of all trades, with the potential of mastering many, Hodge knows exactly where sits in Michael Cheikas plans for a red-hot Wallabies back line.
“Ive spoken to Cheik … my role is to be Mr Fix-It for the time being,” Hodge said. “I know I have to be across every position in the backline except halfback heading into a Test week.
“Ive been a bit everywhere throughout training. Well see how I go [regarding selection] but Ive got to be prepared to play anywhere.”
Cheika will name his first Wallabies team of the year on Thursday and there is plenty of competition for spots among Rebels players Dane Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks and Sefa Naivalu.
“Were so close as mates because we play together … we can help each other out and were genuinely happy for the other one if they get selected in that position,” Hodge said. “Hopefully we can get as many of us in the match-day 23 as possible.”
Hodge was Australias No.12 during their last match against Ireland in 2016 and is expecting a fierce battle against the most improved international side since the 2015 World Cup.
“Some of them dont know how to lose at the moment,” Hodge said. “Theyve got threats right across the park and theyve had a lot of success. Theyre going to be coming here with confidence in the way they play. Were going to be aware of what theyre going to bring in terms of their kicking game and how they play the game. Its going to be about what we can do to nullify them but excel ourselves as well.”
Tom Decent is a journalist with Fairfax Media.
Most Viewed in Sport
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter