Hodge injury may force Cheika to get creative

Hodge injury may force Cheika to get creative
Reece Hodge has injured his ankle. Photo: David Molloy Photography, Wikimedia Commons

Reece Hodge has injured his ankle at training and will not play any tests for the rest of the year. Hodge has played all 9 Wallabies tests so far this year and has been converted into a handy outside centre in the Rugby Championship. The injury will throw the backline into disarray, with Tevita Kuridrani injured and Samu Kerevi (who Hodge replaced at 13) having only two sevens games under his belt after a long injury layoff.

Michael Cheika has announced that Wallabies staff will assess Kerevi, but stressed that he would be underdone starting the test. He will probably be on the bench, however. Assuming Kerevi is unable to start then Cheika will have to pull something out of the box – most likely shifting Israel Folau to the centres.

Folau has been tried at outside-centre for the Waratahs, with underwhelming results. However, there are no recognised 13’s left in the squad, and flying over a player from Australia to Japan would leave them with only a few days to learn the backline moves and defensive patterns before the third Bledisloe test.

Adam Ashley-Cooper has expressed interest in returning to Australian rugby and is currently playing in Japan. He played outside-centre for the Wallabies for many years and is one of their most capped ever players, however at 34 (almost 35) it might be a bit much to ask him to step up from Japanese premier rugby to a Bledisloe test.

Cheika will probably have to find a makeshift solution for the All Blacks game, which will most likely see Folau play 13 with Kerevi coming on later in the game. This would see Tom Banks or Jack Maddocks taking Folau’s wing spot.

After the test Cheika is set to call for reinforcements for the European tour. Ashley-Cooper will likely join the squad as they leave Japan, as will Matt Toomua when they land in Europe. Queensland young gun Jordan Petaia is also tipped to join the squad in Europe, and may get some game time against Italy.

Uncapped squad member Angus Cottrell has also been injured at training, and Pete Samu flew to Japan to replace him after the NRC semi-final last Saturday. Samu was used in the June tests against Ireland and the start of the Rugby Championship, but after a minor injury he was seemingly left out in the cold after not being named in the Bledisloe squad. He is unlikely to play on Saturday.