Western Force captain Matt Hodgson will be a powerful asset to the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup if he can regain his hot form over coming months, according to former Australian hooker Michael Foley.
Hodgson will make his long-awaited return from hamstring surgery in Friday night’s clash with the Chiefs in New Zealand.
The 33-year-old was one of the standout players of Super Rugby last year, with his steely defensive displays and strong leadership helping lift the Force to within a whisker of finals football.
His efforts were rewarded with a Wallabies call-up, where he was given the honour of captaining the side against the Barbarians.
In Hodgson’s absence this year, the last-placed Force have struggled to a 1-8 record, with their inability to land the killer blow in a host of tight games showing how much their skipper’s leadership has been missed.
Hodgson has seven games with the Force this season to work his way back into Wallabies contention.
Foley would love nothing more than to see the six-Test flanker get another call-up.
“I would always have him in the (Wallabies) team because he’s a guy who has incredible influence over a lot of people,” said Foley, who is in his third year as Force coach.
“Matt’s performances as a player and a leader are without question.
“A lot of people see Matt as a defensive player, and so they should because he has a great set of skills in that area.
“He was the No.1 tackler in the comp last year, and No.1 in turnovers.
“But on top of all of that, he was the No.1 try-scoring flanker in the comp (with six tries).”
Although Hodgson’s presence at the breakdown will be crucial against the high-flying Chiefs, his leadership is arguably even more important.
“I’m not suggesting Hodgson’s here to save the day and play the game for everyone else,” Foley said.
“But I do know that with some of our younger players, he can lead them through those key moments in the game.”
The Chiefs will be without injured five-eighth Aaron Cruden (knee) and rested skipper Liam Messam, while the Force are missing lock Sam Wykes (foot) and halfback Alby Mathewson (knee).
Meanwhile, Foley said the ARU’s decision to relax eligibility rules for Wallabies selection is a step in the right direction, and he predicts more changes will be made down the track to ensure Australia’s best players are eligible for Test call-ups.