Charlie Hodgson turned in a dominant performance in the British & Irish Lions’ 36-14 victory over Taranaki to send a timely message to Sir Clive Woodward.
Some have suggested the battle as to who starts at fly-half in the first Test against the All Blacks on June 25 will be between Jonny Wilkinson and Stephen Jones.
Hodgson had been considered in some quarters as the third choice behind the leading protagonists but he was determined to prove otherwise against Taranaki.
"It’s great to get off to a good start for me personally," said Hodgson.
"There’s been a lot of talk with Jonny and Steve competing for the number 10 slot and it was good to give Clive Woodward some selection problems."
Hodgson formed an excellent half-back partnership with Chris Cusiter and as well as directing the Lions offensively, they showed the way in defence by putting in the most tackles in the side, with 15 apiece.
Hodgson made scything runs, kicked from hand with precision, directed the defence with authority and orchestrated a second-half run of 30 unanswered points – with tries from captain Martin Corry, Shane Horgan and two from Geordan Murphy – that broke the back of a physical Taranaki side.
Hodgson’s talent has never been in doubt, but his temperament has been questioned in the past, with some critics arguing his confidence is fragile.
Against Taranaki, though, he was in prime form. From the moment he found touch with a stunning clearance down the line, Hodgson was on top of the game.
And his display earned hearty praise from Corry, who scored the Lions’ first try from a Hodgson pass.
Corry said: "I thought he was tremendous. When things weren’t going well for us he controlled the game, he kept us moving forward, his kicking was brilliant.
"You need your fly-half to be vocal and an orchestrator and that is what he did.
"He reads the game so well. That is his great strength he is such a natural rugby player.
"He has a great rugby brain on him. When things weren’t going well his confidence never suffered. He always has that ability to read the game. The cream always rises to the top and that is what happened."
The Lions said after their hard-fought win over Bay of Plenty that their performance in Rotorua would be the minimum benchmark and for all the first-half struggles in the forwards against Taranaki, Corry feels that has now been raised.
"It was always going to be tough but thankfully we kept trying to play the game fast. We weren’t successful in the first half but in the second half we were and that proved the key.
"The key for us in the early stages of the tour is generating momentum and improving on the performance before.
"I felt we moved up a notch. It was a very good victory and certainly a set up and let’s hope we can keep momentum going."