Kyle Godwin wasn’t ready to debut on his first Spring Tour in 2014, but the final minutes of Australia’s win over France might just have proven why his time has come.
As the French battered the Wallabies and the minutes ticked down, Godwin’s mind was racing.
“The last couple of minutes, I think was pretty stressed. I was more stressed for those last couple of minutes than I was before the game,” he said.
“It was pretty tense times but I’m so glad the boys got the win.
“We trained hard all week and we played the way we trained during the week. So glad the boys got the result in the end.”
A pre-game message from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika stayed with him as the minutes ticked over, with a philosophy that made him look like a player well beyond his debut.
“Cheik spoke to me before the game and just said make sure you don’t second guess yourself,” he said.
“For a debutant to come out and play 80 minutes with a late change in a playmaker next to him – he stood up.” Michael Cheika
“There’s a lot of areas for me to work on, I just can’t wait to get back on the training field on Monday. I definitely felt like I can play at that level but there’s a lot of areas for me to improve on."
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was spruking Godwin’s defensive capabilities in the lead-up to the match and Godwin showed his credentials, making 12 tackles, with all of them sticking, as well as taking a lead role in attack.
It was the 24-year-old’s temperament in the dying stages that stood out for Cheika.
“I felt like he stayed in the game. He made a decision where he was going to stay in the game and try and win the game as opposed to just being a part of it." - Michael Cheika
“For a debutant to come out and play 80 minutes with a late change in a playmaker next to him – he stood up,” Cheika said.
“He made play, he didn’t sit back and not make play. He probably got to about 65 minutes and it probably started to get to him, ‘I’m in a Test here, it’s tight, I’ve never been here before’ and he really stood up and got involved.
“I felt like he stayed in the game. He made a decision where he was going to stay in the game and try and win the game as opposed to just being a part of it which would be absolutely normal I imagine in such a big atmosphere.”
Godwin’s performance intensifies the competition between he and incumbent Reece Hodge and it’s the kind of battle Cheika welcomed post-match.
“No one is doing anything without opportunities and it’s up to us to put them in the position, not just throw them in there, but put them in a position where they can [compete],” he said.
“If you look at Kyle and Luke Morahan, they’ve been training all year, haven’t had a go.
“I spoke to Luke and said ‘mate, it’s up to me, you’ve done everything you can right now, it’s up to me to give you an opportunity’.
“This opportunity came up and I felt like he took that – and Kyle – with both hands.”
One player who hasn’t yet been given an opportunity at Wallabies is Jono Lance, who didn’t get off the bench after being a late inclusion into the Test 23 on Saturday.
Lance will be flyhalf for a Wallabies XV against the French Barbarians and Cheika said a Test debut was not far away for his former NSW charge.
“I always seek counsel from former Australian coaches etcetera, without mentioning names, who have been pushing and suggesting him to me over a while, over the last 12 months because of some of the quality he’s brought since he’s been running the show at the Western Force,” he said.
“He’s a different player to the one that I coached at the Tahs and he’s come on and I don’t think he got his cap tonight but he’s now in the system with us and we’ll keep working with him.
“He’ll run the show down in Bordeaux for the Wallaby XV that goes down there and I’d say it won’t be long before he gets that cap.”