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Hodge learning on the run for Wallabies

AAP logoAAP 2/11/2016 Joe Barton

Six minutes into last week's defeat at the hands of the All Blacks, Wallabies rookie Reece Hodge learned an early lesson about life as an international centre.

As New Zealand spread the ball wide in the opening minutes of the match, his first at inside centre at international level, the 22-year-old looked to have his defensive position set.

But no sooner had he shifted his eyes for a second than the experienced Ben Smith scorched past him on the outside to advantage of a backpeddling Hodge and throw a cut-out pass to Israel Dagg for the game's opening try.

As far as defensive error go, it would be considered minor.

But it gave a clear indication of what Hodge will have to expect as he grows in the No.12 jersey - having started his Wallabies career this year from the wing.

Hodge, who is set to face another steep learning curve in the form of Wales' world-class centre pairing of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in Cardiff this Saturday (Sunday AEDT), is working closely with defensive coach and former Wallabies centre Nathan Grey to finetune his play in the position.

But that's not to say the lessons didn't come thick and fast in the Eden Park cauldron last week - with the youngster also having a clearing kick charged down, leading to TJ Perenara's try shortly before halftime.

"Obviously it was not one of my better games," he admitted.

"Executing on an individual level within the gameplan is definitely what I learnt the most out of the game.

"(Grey has) been really good for me ... He's a defensive coach but he has a lot to offer in attack as well.

"Focusing on your role individually within the system is one thing he's massive on.

"If we can continue to do that individually, it's going to make a difference to the team."

Grey was sympathetic to the young talent's mixed bag last week and said going against the world's best would only benefit Hodge in the future - insisting he has the skills to flourish at inside centre, where he spent the majority of the Super Rugby season with the Melbourne Rebels.

"He's finding his feet in that position. It's a difficult position but he's got a good skillset to be able contribute there," the 35-Test veteran said on Wednesday.

"That experience playing in New Zealand is only adding to his experience and knowledge of playing at this high level.

"You constantly learn. He got smoked on the outside for that first try and it's something that he learnt from.

"Everyone learns from those experiences. He's growing as a player and he's working really dilligently."

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