A revitalised Charlie Hodgson has today returned to the England starting line up after an absence of nearly four years.
The former Sale man, now at Saracens, has had a rollercoaster international career, but thus far he will be remembered mainly for the mistakes and poor performances that have kept him in the shadow of Wilkinson, Goode and Flood over the past few years.
2008 saw his last games for England, with missed tackles, memorably on Ma’a Nonu, poor kicking and open criticism from then coach, Rob Andrew, seeming to sum up a disappointing international career for Hodgson who many thought would now not get another chance at the top.
But Sale fans have known for years, and Saracens fans are now seeing just how good Hodgson actually is. As far as attacking goes there are fewer better players in recent English history. He single has taken some of the best defences in the world apart with his quick distribution and clever footwork. Any doubters need only watch the 2006 Premiership Final where Hodgson in the space of one game showed everything that is good about his play.
And his attacking prowess has not gone unnoticed by Stuart Lancaster. The interim coach wants to make England exciting to watch again and he feels that a player such as Hodgson at fly half can create a mindset and provide the ball for the backs to play some beautiful running Rugby that has been missing from the English game in recent years.
Hodgson has admitted there were times when he thought he was “never going to get picked” but stressed that his emphasis has always remained on “working hard and never losing faith in my ability”. His move to Saracens in the summer summed up his ambitions.
He could easily have stayed at Sale, playing in a safe environment at a club that was languishing at the wrong end of the table, with fans that idolised Hodgson. But he decided to give himself one last chance at the big time, he signed for the Champions, he put himself in the position to get this chance and now, against Scotland on Saturday, he has one last chance to be England’s man.