National skills coach Mick Byrne has been effusive in his praise of the Wallabies since coming on board, but there’s one player that he can’t wait to keep working with.
Byrne, speaking on RadioTAB, said the Test players had all been incredibly receptive to change but it was rookie Reece Hodge who caught his eye the most.
Hodge is the longest kick in the Wallabies side, slotting a penalty in the second Bledisloe from 55m and making the distance on a longer one in the same game, but just missing the mark.
Byrne said he couldn’t wait to harness Hodge’s distance and turn it into a ‘weapon’ in Super Rugby and Tests.
“Hodge has got one of the most powerful boots I’ve ever worked with,” he said.
“It’s an outstanding, powerful weapon and my challenge now is to make it a great weapon and for him to be able to use that for us and for the Rebels moving forward.”
Byrne, who spent more than a decade with the All Blacks before moving back to his native Australia, said he had to cast his mind back a decade when he turned up at Wallabies.
“The biggest battle for me coming in was I tried to move on from where I was (in New Zealand) forgetting when I started back in 2005 with the All Blacks it was pretty similar,” he said.
“I had to do a bit of a double take and realise I’m going back to where I was and starting again in the concepts around the skill work that’s needed.
“There is a misnomer that people feel at the top end of the game, ‘why do you need skills?’.
“It’s the same reason why Rory McIlroy practises his golf swing and other athletes practice the little things.”
“At the top end of the game it’s probably more important that you’re working on your skill sets.”