Rona axing puts Hodge in box seat to be Wallabies No.13
REECE Hodge looms as the Wallabies’ go-to man to fill the vacant outside centre position for Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup opener at ANZ Stadium after Curtis Rona was cut from the squad.
The Wallabies are still keeping their cards close to their chest over who will start in the No.13 jersey but the axing of Rona and the inclusion of Tom Banks and Jack Maddocks points to the versatile Hodge getting the job.
“There are still a few guys in the squad who can play 13, so nothing’s finalised as of yet,” Hodge said.
“I guess getting a bit of time there at training over the past few weeks has made me a lot more confident within the environment. It’s just about doing those combinations obviously.”
Israel Folau has been touted as a possibility at outside centre but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said he would prefer to keep him at fullback.
Kurtley Beale said both could fill the void left by the injuries to Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani.
“Reece is obviously a very versatile player and I’m sure if given the opportunity he will step up and do a fine job,” Beale said.
“I’m pretty confident with whoever we put in that position. I know they will be pretty keen to get out there and express themselves and make sure they get the job done for the team.”
Banks and Maddocks were the only uncapped players to retain their places in the squad, which was cut from 36 to 28 when Rona, Folau Faingaa, Jermaine Ainsley, Rory Arnold, Caleb Timu, Billy Meakes, Jordan Petaia and Sefa Naivalu were sent back to their club sides.
A further five players will be released before the final match-day squad of 23 is announced on Thursday.
Wallabies’ 28-man squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Adam Coleman, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Ned Hanigan, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Marika Koroibete, Tolu Latu, Jack Maddocks, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Joe Powell, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Peter Samu, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Matt Toomua, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou.