It’s just the start but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had plenty to be happy about after Reece Hodge’s maiden flyhalf outing.
Hodge was a replacement for Bernard Foley (illness) in the Japan Test, after being groomed as the back-up through the Rugby Championship, and showed promise on Saturday afternoon.
The 23-year-old worked in tandem with Kurtley Beale in the playmaking spots, but took the reins on his own when Beale went off in the second half, replaced by Curtis Rona at fullback.
A perfect nine-from-nine off the boot complemented Hodge’s work around the field, handy additions to an already healthy scoreboard.
Cheika said the 80 minutes may have gotten to Hodge towards the end, with the fledgling 10 opting for longer-range in-field kicks as the minutes ticked on, but was generally satisfied with his maiden run at five-eighth.
“Reece wanted the opportunity and has been preparing and I thought japan tested him with line speed many times and he made some good decisions,” he said.
“(There’s) still a long way to go but a great start for him in that no, 10 jersey.
“I was very happy with his game.
“He probably got a bit tired towards the end, he had a lot of decisions to make and no second playmaker but I thought he did a fantastic job.”
Hodge was more self-critical post-match, but said he was keen to take as much as he could from the opportunity steering the side.
“I think it’s all about that experience,” he said.
“I think I found my way through, there’s a few patches I didn’t control it as well as I would’ve liked.
“That’s up to me, the 12 and the 9 as well going forward if we’re in that position again.
“For the most part it wasn’t too bad.”
Playmaking responsibility was put squarely on Hodge in the back quarter of the match, when Rona replaced Beale, and the side didn’t entirely adjust to the new combinations, Hodge said.
“We handled it okay, probably could’ve done it a little bit better, (by) going through them a little bit more before we tried to spread it wide and (we) got a bit too carried away with the offloads in parts but I think for the most it wasn’t too bad.”
Foley is expected to be fit to play in next week’s Test against Wales in Cardiff, after battling a virus this week.
The Wallabies travel to Cardiff on Sunday, ahead of Saturday’s Test against Wales.