By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Wallabies back Reece Hodge has shrugged off the team’s limited preparations before taking on Six Nations champions Ireland, saying the players had become accustomed to gelling in a hurry.
Michael Cheika’s squad will have less than a week together to prepare for the June 9 opener in Brisbane after the players break up from Super Rugby following this weekend’s round.
The world champion All Blacks, by contrast, have already had two three-day camps in the last two weeks to warm up for their three-match series against France.
“I think it’s something that everyone’s used to around the test set-up previously,” utility back Hodge told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“You try to have those meetings and little camps and stuff like that to gel the team together before the June series but it’s a matter of us putting our allegiances aside to our provincial teams and then getting into the test team.
“I think everyone’s pretty experienced at doing that and hopefully the team can gel well before the first test.”
The long-kicking Hodge is set to add to his 23 caps in the three-match series, and sees threats in every corner of Joe Schmidt’s strong tour squad, who are seeking Ireland’s first test win in Australia since 1979.
“They’ve had some great success for their backline throughout the Six Nations and there’s really young, exciting guys in that backline such as Garry Ringrose,” Hodge added.
“Obviously, (Jacob) Stockdale won the Six Nations player of the tournament and then there are guys like (flyhalf Johnny) Sexton who is all class.
“They have threats right across the backline and a really strong forward pack.
“It’s going to be a massive test — they’re probably the form team in the world at the moment so I’m looking forward to it.”
Australia scrumhalf Will Genia has missed a month of Super Rugby with a knee injury, putting some doubt on his availability for the series, but Hodge said his Melbourne Rebels team mate had a chance to play against the Auckland Blues on Saturday.
“Hopefully he can get out on the field and get some confidence and match fitness before the (Ireland) series.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)