Booth: London Irish's Hodgson has to be in England contentionBy Alan Manicom
September 30, 2009
If the England selectors want a scrum-half with excellent leadership skills and who is the model of consistency, they can do no better than turn to London Irish’s Paul Hodgson.
That was the verdict of Exiles coach Toby Booth after his side’s impressive 28-16 win over London Wasps on Sunday.
Hodgson was at his imperious best, driving on a rampaging pack that laid the foundations for another thrilling victory at Madejski Stadium.
And Booth said: “It is a delight to have Dodge in our side and in front of the England selectors he showed he has the core skills and ability to play at high pressure and still have the clarity of thought to do the right thing.
“I am told Brian Smith, Mike Ford and Martin Johnson were watching against Wasps. They know what they want and will pick their team accordingly.
“They have their reasons for picking people. Maybe they will want game breakers. But if they want someone who is consistent in his leadership and who has his own skill set and merits then I am sure Dodge will be an automatic choice.
“If people aren’t doing their jobs he’ll let them know. He’s a coach’s dream in that respect.”
It is a quality that Wasps coach Shaun Edwards admires.
The Rugby League legend said: “He is a tremendous team player. The heart and soul of the London Irish team.
“He is talking all the time, winding people up – a proper cheeky little scrum-half and I like him.”
Booth agreed: “He has been absolutely fantastic. It was another mind-blowingly consistent performance.
“We have to plan for the autumn internationals because I am pretty certain Dodge is going to be involved.”
England have matches against Australia on November 7, Argentina (Nov 14) and New Zealand (Nov 21).
“I probably wish he was playing a little bit worse so he was not available,” joked Booth.
But the Exiles boss remains confident that his side can cope without Hodgson, adding: “The good thing is we have other scrum-halves. Peter Richards and Alfredo Lalanne bring different things.”
And Hodgson admits the competition from Richards and Lalanne is pushing him to new heights.
He said: “I play my best when we have better scrum-halves at the club. Alfredo will probably be playing for Argentina in the autumn, while Peter is playing some of the best rugby of his career. They have helped me raise my game.”
And Hodgson feels he is reaping the benefit from playing behind a beaten pack when he first came to the club.
“This is my sixth season at London Irish and I believe that I learned the most from the first year when we were down the bottom of the table. I had to deal with rubbish ball and that was a massive learning curve.”
Hodgson is only 5ft 8in tall, but he has no qualms about barking out orders to the London Irish pack.
He said: “I learned early on that if you play pretty well in most games then you earn their respect. Toby has told me to keep shouting at them and they are not going to argue with him.
“If I can take any of their work away from them by thinking for them and telling them what to do, then so much the better. Three or four of them tell me to chase them and make sure they are running hard and say thank you at the end of the game. You feel like all you have done is shout at them, but I’m happy to do it.”