'He came back at me in that meeting... so he challenges me'
Sale boss Alex Sanderson will send Bevan Rodd off on England Six Nations duty next week with the earnest hope that the loosehead can win a Test cap for the first time since featuring against Australia in November 2021. The 22-year-old was capped twice during that Autumn Nations Series 14 months ago but didn’t play again under Eddie Jones and the hope is that the appointment of Steve Borthwick as the new England coach can now alter the selection picture.
Rodd was named last Monday in the 36-strong squad that will assemble at Pennyhill Park for five days of training next week with the countdown on towards the February 4 opener versus Scotland at Twickenham.
The England inclusion of Rodd was a timely reassurance for the young front-rower whose club-level start to the new year has had its difficulties as he was only named as a replacement for the Gallagher Premiership match at Harlequins and last Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup match at home to Toulouse.
It’s a situation that Rodd hasn’t taken lightly, taking the issue up with the director of rugby Sanderson in a proactive rather than a contentious way and the optimism is that recent learnings can help the prop when it comes to battling for much-desired England recognition.
“We had a decent, honest conversation post the Quins game and he wasn’t selected to start against Toulouse and that was just about a couple of the things we just weren’t improving on,” explained Sanderson to RugbyPass ahead of this weekend’s must-win European trip to Ulster.
“So I had a chat with him on the Tuesday and he came back at me in that meeting and then came and saw me again Monday and said look this is what you said affected me in this way, so he is someone who actually can take it on and doesn’t go, ‘That is his opinion, right I’m doing mine’. He actually reflects on it and comes back to me and gives it back to me, which is ace, so he challenges me in that regard.
“He is very reflective, very intelligent and, unlike a lot of young lads, he doesn’t just jump when you say how high type thing. He comes back and wants to know why, what for and why did you set me this. I’m really enjoying working with him at the moment.”
The task now in the weeks ahead is for Borthwick to warm to Rodd in the same way. “There is a perseverance in the process, continually trying to improve his game. He is a super skilful, multi-talented rugby player, he is just good at rugby.
“So we have looked at some of his X-factors around the field and tried to lean into them and by that some of his defensive mobility, his decision-making, the jackal threat that he is that a lot of looseheads can’t give you and making sure he improves that decision making and doesn’t go for the big plays al the time. He is all over it.
“We have looked at that and we have also looked at some of the pictures he has presented in the scrum because he is dominant but can he become paint consistently good pictures? The things that are going to hopefully get him the starting role or off the bench for England, the things that set him apart, we have focused on those and focused hard on him and we have had some improvements on that.
“Rather than get disillusioned by the fact that he hasn’t (played lately with England), Bev is really steely, very resilient around the selection. It’s just been water off the duck’s back. He has just come back on, got on with it and played well with us. Maybe this will be his chance, this will be the time he does get the nod in the Six Nations.”
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