Wallabies playmaker, Reece Hodge, says team morale remains high following Australia’s inspiring win over the All Blacks two-weeks ago, but admitted all will count for nothing if the Wallabies don’t back it up with another strong performance on Saturday.
Chasing their first major trophy since the 2015 Rugby Championship, the Wallabies clash with Argentina in Newcastle this weekend, with a golden opportunity to take an outright lead in this year’s Tri-Nations tournament, following the Puma’s stunning upset of the All Blacks on Saturday.
Despite so much being at stake, Hodge says his side remains focused on controlling what they can control - keeping each other accountable and building on that consistency Head Coach, Dave Rennie, set out at the start of this year’s Test season.
“A lot’s been talked about – both internally and externally – that we probably haven’t had the consistency over the past few years that we’ve liked in terms of following up good wins in Test matches,” said Hodge.
“Everyone’s pretty keen to rip in and back up that performance, which is obviously going to be pretty tough against an Argentinian team where you saw how much passion they played with, so they’re going to be a tough challenge.
“All teams have won one game now and there’s an opportunity for us to go in front on Saturday with the All Blacks having the week off and really put some pressure on them in the last couple of matches.
“It would mean a lot to us to win a Tri-Nations at home.”
Making his first start of the 2020 Test season and second ever in the No.10 jersey, Hodge played a game to remember at Suncorp.
The twenty-six-year-old set up the game’s opening try of the match, while also making several crucial tackles in defence.
Hodge’s 14 points – including three crucial penalties in the second half – were pivotal to the Wallabies’ enthralling 24-22 victory, igniting his side’s Tri-Nations aspirations in the process.
With James O’Connor still in doubt with a knee injury, Hodge remained hopeful for another starting opportunity at flyhalf come Saturday.
"There’s still a few sessions to go before we’re prepared for the match. Generally it’s been such a long build up now that the competition in the squad is really building and you can see that guys are getting frustrated at not getting opportunities and thy are pushing really hard at training.
“The standard at training and the competition is unreal having come back into camp on Wednesday this week.
“Hopefully myself and a lot of others are going to be really pushing our case to either retain or regain our positions come Saturday.”
Following a full day’s worth of training, Hodge and his Wallabies teammates enjoyed Argentina’s win over a Saturday night team-bonding BBQ.
Hodge said the Puma’s fierce intensity and unyielding defensive pressure were two major talking points throughout the night.
“I was very impressed with the way Argentina defended especially – they just didn’t give an inch to the All Blacks at all, so they were pretty impressive.”
“It’s a pretty unique situation isn’t it? 402 days without a Test match – I can’t say I’ve ever been in that position.
“Obviously, a few videos came out overnight about how they prepared at home during quarantine and lockdown – throwing lineouts in the backyard and I think Nicolás Sánchez said he ran twenty-one kilometres in his house, so that’s pretty unreal dedication there.
“We talk about consistency, but I’m sure that will be one of the focuses for them heading into Saturday and we’re expecting a massive test – it’s going to be an awesome battle.”