Joel Hodgson says former mentor Jimmy Gopperth will be a handful on Friday night when he returns with Wasps to Kingston Park Stadium, but that Newcastle Falcons are not just focusing on one man.
Kiwi fly-half Gopperth won a pair of Premiership golden boots during a prolific stint on Tyneside, and on Friday will be inducted into the Falcons’ 100 Club in recognition of his exploits.
And while Hodgson has full respect for a man who leads the league’s scoring charts this season, he knows Wasps’ threat extends beyond just the Taranaki native.
“I played under Jimmy on his last two or three years at the club, and learnt a lot from him,” said the Falcons fly-half, who kicked two from two in the 21-6 Christmas Eve loss at champions Saracens.
“He has gone on to do really well, as he did for us. We know what he is about, we know his strengths and we have to deal with those in the correct manner, but Wasps are a team with many talented individuals.
“It’s not just one man we’re focusing on, we have got to respect them all, but if we keep our defensive principles in mind we can have a good night.”
Hodgson comes into Friday night’s 7.45pm kick-off in fine form, scoring a try in last month’s victory at Northampton and helping the Falcons past Harlequins, before a man-of-the-match performance in the European Challenge Cup victory over Lyon.
The 24-year-old said: “I am thrilled to bits to be getting the game time I’m getting. Hopefully I’m doing enough, but like all the boys I’m always striving to improve.
“Everyone is about the same thing here, everyone wants to be playing and wants the team to do well. I’m not going to rest on my laurels just because I’ve had a run of games – I’m always wanting more and just looking to improve wherever I can.
“I can’t relax and stop working. Obviously Mike [Delany] is not available at the moment through injury, but we still have the likes of Craig Willis and Tom Catterick training hard and constantly pushing all of us. Yes, it’s nice being in the team and having a bit of a run of games because it allows me to develop my all-round game, but I know I’ve got to keep working incredibly hard if I want to stay in that 23 with the competition we have here.”
The Newcastle native is buzzing at the prospect of a big Kingston Park crowd for Friday’s televised visit of the joint league leaders, with tickets selling quickly for a popular festive fixture.
“It’s good that we’re getting more numbers through the doors, and if we can keep playing an attractive style of rugby hopefully more will come,” he said.
“As a player there’s nothing better than getting out there on a Friday night when the lights are on, and we know not many teams like coming up here. It will be a noisy spectacle for the Wasps boys, and hopefully we can put on a good show for everyone.
“Wasps like to throw the ball around, we like to do the same in the right areas and hopefully it will be a good spectacle.”
Tickets for Friday’s 7.45pm kick-off are available by calling 0871 226 6060, from the Kingston Park ticket office during opening hours (9am to 5pm) or by clicking here.