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Ex-All Black Alex Hodgman in the mix for historic ‘shot at a Wallaby jersey’

By Finn Morton
Alex Hodgman during a Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 25, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Australia coach Joe Schmidt has acknowledged that prop Alex Hodgman will face some tough competition as the former All Black looks to join an exclusive club by debuting for the Wallabies during the upcoming July internationals.

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When the Wallabies announced their 38-man squad ahead of Tests against Wales and Georgia next month, there were a number of storylines that jumped out worthy of a headline or two. Initially, it was hard to look past the 13 uncapped players selected.

There was also another changing of the guard at flyhalf with NRL-bound Wallaby Carter Gordon omitted from the squad in favour of Ben Donaldson, Noah Lolesio and Tom Lynagh, who is the son of legendary Australia playmaker Michael.

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But amongst all the excitement that the baker’s dozen of potential debutants presented, as well as the return of some experienced talents, a former All Black was named. Alex Hodgman played four Tests for New Zealand in 2020 but moved to Australia this year with the Queensland Reds.

Hodgman started seven of eight appearances for the Reds during a promising Super Rugby Pacific campaign. Clearly, the loosehead prop did enough to impress selectors as the 30-year-old looks to become the fourth man to represent the All Blacks and Wallabies.

“With Alex, I just know he’s really prepared to work hard. He had a shoulder injury through the middle part and toward the end of the Super Rugby season so he was struggling a little bit with that but he’s tough enough to play through that,” Schmidt told Michael Atkinson on Stan Sport.

“Hopefully, with a couple of weeks off, or off contact at least, he’ll be able to get himself up and running.

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“He’ll be competing with some pretty experienced guys. It might be Alex’s first shot at a Wallaby jersey, it certainly isn’t James Slippers – he’s had a few of them before. The other loosehead is Isaac Kailea who’s another potential debutant.”

Hodgman and Kailea are the two uncapped front rowers named in the Wallabies’ squad. The other props named include the veteran trio of Allan Alaalatoa, James Slipper and Taniela Tupou, and also one of last year’s debutants Zane Nonggorr.

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But then there’s the list of men who are unavailable for selection through injury. NSW Waratahs prop Angus Bell stood on the cusp of world-class status last year after a sensational series of individual performances during The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup.

Unfortunately for coach Schmidt and the Wallabies, Bell has been ruled out with a toe injury. Harry Johnson-Holmes and Blake Schoupp are another two front-rowers who weren’t able to be picked as they continue to recover from injuries.

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Hookers David Porecki and Lachlan Lonergan, backrower Rob Leota and outside back Max Jorgensen were also included in the list of unavailable talent. It’s a significant list that led Schmidt to say the coaches are “always a little bit worried.”

“There’s always something to be concerned about. Sometimes you might think you’ve got an aging player or sometimes you think a player’s a bit young and you’ve just got to build on what there is there,” the Wallabies coach explained.

“It’s a tough one to answer right now but if I said I wasn’t concerned then you should be concerned because coaches, that’s just what we do.

“We’re always a little bit worried about how things are gonna pan out so we try to plan ahead and try to minimise anything that we think might not pan out too well.”

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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