Hodgson fighting for place

Charlie Hodgson's international career is at a crossroads after Rob Andrew indicated England could no longer put up with his defensive frailties. [more]

Hodgson fighting for place

Charlie Hodgson’s international career is at a crossroads after Rob Andrew indicated England could no longer put up with his defensive frailties.

Hodgson is one of the most naturally-gifted attacking players in England but he was targeted by New Zealand’s powerful ball-carriers in Saturday’s 37-20 defeat in Auckland and came off second best.

Ma’a Nonu swatted him aside in the build-up to New Zealand’s third try and Hodgson was replaced by the more steely defensive frame of Jamie Noon after only 50 minutes.

Andrew confirmed England will re-assess their fly-half options for next weekend’s second Test, with Olly Barkley or Toby Flood the potential replacements.

And with new England manager Martin Johnson naming his elite squad for next season on July 1, Hodgson’s international career could be on hold once again.

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"The challenge in international rugby across all positions is to find players that can handle anything," said Andrew, England’s stand-in manager.

"That is what the selection on July 1 will be about. That is why this tour is invaluable. We need to give players opportunities to show what they can do. 

"The selectors need to find Test players that can cope with every aspect of Test rugby. Bits of Test rugby are not optional."

For all his creativity, defensive fortitude has never been a feature of Hodgson’s game. At the age of 27, that is unlikely to change.

But the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Butch James and Dan Carter have proved in recent years how important it is to plug that potentially vulnerable fly-half channel with accomplished tacklers.

"It is a physical part of the game now. We knew we would be challenged in that area by New Zealand," said Andrew.

"Like all players he (Hodgson) has strengths and weaknesses. Test rugby is about trying to make sure you don’t have many weaknesses because you get found out in Test match rugby. 

"That is a challenge for him to address."

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