Friday, 13 November 2009

Dodge ball for England could end Argie-bargie

MARTIN JOHNSON is ready to dodge the flak from last week’s opening Autumn Test defeat against Australia — by calling up the man known as Dodge.
Paul Hodgson, the 27-year-old London Irish scrum-half signed from Bristol in 2004, comes in for Harlequins No9 Danny Care, 22, with a reputation for quick passing and fast talking.
The lad who started his career aged seven at Sutton & Epsom RFC in 1989, wins his fifth cap against Argentina tomorrow saying: “It is something I do naturally — I don’t think there are many quiet scrum-halves around! While the ball is in the air, you can help with communication.
“We call it small talk. It helps the boys with the little details to make the system work. We want to play with momentum.
“It’s something I do for my Exiles, and I enjoy it and relish it. If I can take some of the thinking time off the forwards in front of me, it helps them out.
“It is easier now than when I was first in the England squad because you don’t mind shouting out commands.
“As a scrum-half, you are always trying to emphasise to everyone the finer points of how the team is trying to play.”
England team manager Johnson explained: “Paul is a bit more experienced than Danny. He is very, very good at getting the tempo in the game, which is what we want to do.
“He brings a lot on to the field in terms of communication and leadership. There is a “generalship” about the way he plays at London Irish.
“It will be more difficult this weekend because he is not playing in the comfort of his club environment but we have confidence in him. What he brings is a real maturity.”
Hodgson becomes Jonny Wilkinson’s 10th half-back partner, adding: “Jonny welcomes feedback. For him to be so approachable is fantastic and helps the players. I am rooming with him, so that helps as well.”
Wilkinson chips in: ‘There are not enough players like ‘Dodge’ who commentate on the game and it is the ideal approach.
“Talking like that keeps you on your toes and that is how Dodge plays. He is always ready for the next thing and it is because his mind is always working.
“As a 10, you need to know what your nine is thinking so I have never been in a situation where I have been put out by someone else talking at me. It can never happen enough.’
Mike Ford, the defence coach, admits: “For me, Paul is like an extra coach out there on the field defensively
“He is the best talker in the team in terms of telling players where to go and what to do. He never shuts up. His enthusiasm and the energy he brings in defence is fantastic.”
But perhaps the most important advice comes from World Cup-winning centre Will Greenwood who twittered: “England might change but unless they change their outlook and style it will end the same way.”
Follow nealcol on throughout the Autumn internationals.

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