Josh Hodge is ready to kick on from his exploits at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, with the tournament’s top scorer eyeing further progress at Newcastle Falcons.
The 20-year-old kicked a perfect 24 from 24 during the competition in Argentina last month including a match-winning penalty against Italy, and managed to find his way over the try-line at regular intervals despite occupying the unfamiliar position of winger due to injuries elsewhere in the England squad.
“It was a really great experience, making some new friends, seeing some of the world and just enjoying everything associated with being in the tournament,” said the Sedbergh School graduate, who is entering his second season with the Falcons’ senior academy.
“It was unfortunate for the team to come fifth, it wasn’t what we were hoping for but we bounced back from our first game and built things up from there.”
Playing down the personal plaudits coming his way after top-scoring during the tournament, he said: “I couldn’t have done it without the team.
“It was down to all the support of the boys and the work they did in creating the opportunities to score points, and as nice as it is to have that accolade I realise it was just a case of finishing off the good work of other people.”
More accustomed to playing full-back or fly-half, Hodge added: “I’d played two or three times on the wing, but with the injuries we had it meant we needed a left winger.
“I gave it everything I had even though it was a bit of an unfamiliar position to me, and hopefully I did alright for the team.”
Putting international matters to the back of his mind Hodge is now back with his Falcons team-mates, explaining: “I’ve had a good month off since the end of the World Cup, although you need to keep ticking over at this level.
“I had 10 days in Lanzarote when I first got back which was a great opportunity to relax on the beach and the sunbed without really doing anything physical, but as pre-season drew nearer I started to do a bit of running just to prepare for what’s to come.
“I’ve just finished my second day back with the Falcons squad now and the legs are feeling it a bit as you’d expect, but it’s got to be done.
“This time last year I went from schools rugby to full-time training, so it was a bit of a shock, but I feel like I’m in a better position now going into my second season.
“You’ve just got to understand that it’s your job and treat it with the professionalism that anybody else does to their career, and try to get the best out of the people around you.”
Aware that minutes on the field are crucial to his ongoing development, he added: “I’m linked up with Darlington Mowden Park this season so it would be great to get some game time down there, and then hopefully I’ll push for first team selection as the season progresses.
“We’ve got a huge amount of quality players at the club so I realise it’s not a given, and that the only way I’ll earn that selection is by working hard, learning from the people around me and applying myself every single day.”