British & Irish Lion Charlie Hodgson believes he has done enough to be considered England’s leading fly-half in his own right.
Hodgson’s international career has been dogged by comparisons with fellow Lion Jonny Wilkinson but he believes he is not just keeping the number 10 shirt warm until the Newcastle Falcons star comes back into contention after a two-year absence from the national side.
"I do feel I am testing him rather than being the understudy with Jonny being the dead cert," said Hodgson, who will win his 12th consecutive cap against Australia at Twickenham.
"I feel a lot happier in this environment now. My run of games stems back to the summer tour of 2004. It has been a great learning experience for me and helps you perform better.
"The test comes when Jonny is playing well and doesn’t have any injury worries – but my performances have been good for Sale and I do feel close to being considered the number one.
"Now Jonny is back and playing well it is good for us both to have that competitive edge back. It will make us both better players now we are competing for the same spot.
"Hopefully when the time comes for Andy Robinson to choose between us it will be a difficult selection."
Robinson is certainly a fan. Hodgson is widely accepted to be the most natural playmaker in English rugby and Robinson is confident the defensive frailty he showed in 2004 and last season’s goal-kicking problems are a thing of the past.
"He had a serious knee injury in 2003 and didn’t go to the World Cup because of it – but if you chart his progress since then he has become a very good international fly-half," said Robinson.
"His whole game has improved over the last 16 months. In every area of his game he has got better. With that there is pressure to perform, you have responsibilities and Charlie has shown he has matured with those responsibilities."
Robinson believes Hodgson was unfortunate not to have won a Lions Test cap in New Zealand after impressing for the unbeaten midweek team.
Nevertheless, Hodgson learned a great deal from his Lions experience.
"I took quite a bit from it. One of the key things was performing well, feeling confident and enjoying playing well. If I can take that into the game this weekend then hopefully I can do well.
"I am excited at the prospect of playing running rugby with England. It’s nice to be involved in a side that wants to play expansive rugby and throw the ball around and to be leading that is a big challenge for me.
"In Jamie Noon, Mike Tindall, Ben Cohen, Mark Cueto and Josh Lewsey there is some powerful running outside me and hopefully we can do some damage."