Hodgson could face axe

Olly Barkley or Toby Flood are potential replacements

Last Updated: 15/06/08 3:26pm

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Hodgson: Under pressure

Hodgson: Under pressure

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England fly-half Charlie Hodgson could be dropped for the second Test after New Zealand ruthlessly exposed his defensive frailties in Auckland.

"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."
Rob Andrew Quotes of the week

Hodgson was making his first Test start in 19 months in the 37-20 defeat on Saturday after recovering from a second knee reconstruction.

But he was targeted by New Zealand's powerful ball-carriers, with Ma'a Nonu swatting him aside in the build-up to the All Blacks' third try before he was replaced by the more steely defensive frame of Jamie Noon after only 50 minutes.

England's stand-in manager Rob Andrew confirmed they will reassess their fly-half options for next weekend's Christchurch Test, with Olly Barkley or Toby Flood the potential replacements.

And Hodgson's international career could again be on hold when England manager Martin Johnson names his elite squad for next season on July 1.

Andrew said: "The challenge in international rugby across all positions is to find players that can handle anything.

Invaluable

"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."

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

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

"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.

Challenge

"That is a challenge for him to address."

Andrew added: "We talked long and hard about what we felt the right selection should be both from a defensive and an attacking point of view.

"We will have to look carefully at those issues going into next week because you just can't afford to give two or three soft tries at this level.

"We have got to look at some of the areas we allowed New Zealand, with ball in hand, to make some easy yards."

If Hodgson is replaced at fly-half for the second Test, England's main decision is whether to start with Noon and Mike Tindall in a solid but uninventive midfield or bring Flood into the side.

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