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Rejuvenated Hodgson ready for England 'debut'

Updated: February 01, 2012, 17:58


LONDON(AP) Charlie Hodgson may be preparing for his 37th test for England but the oft-criticized flyhalf says Saturday's Six Nations match against Scotland will feel more like his debut.

With Jonny Wilkinson retired from international rugby and Toby Flood injured, Hodgson is expected to be handed the No. 10 jersey for the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield.

The 31-year-old Hodgson, who made his England debut in 2001, hasn't started a test since 2008 when his weak defense was shown up by powerhouse New Zealand center Ma'a Nonu in a 37-20 loss to the All Blacks.

An offseason move from Sale to English champion Saracens has rejuvenated his career, and Hodgson is ready to start afresh in a new post-World Cup era for the national team under interim coach Stuart Lancaster.

"It could feel like a debut,'' Hodgson said. "I feel very proud to be given the opportunity to be involved again. Who knows where it goes? I have learned not to look too far ahead.

"It was always a case of working hard and never losing belief in my own ability.''

Hodgson, arguably the most talented playmaking pivot in the English game, is used to picking himself up off the floor after bruising experiences for England.

Knee reconstructions ruled him out of both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, and when he was given chances in place of the injury-prone Wilkinson, he often fluffed his lines.

One of Hodgson's more memorable meltdowns came in February 2005 when he missed three penalties and a drop goal from in front of the posts in a 18-17 home loss to France in the Six Nations.

His poor tackling and his goal-kicking under pressure were jumped on by the Twickenham crowd at the time, with Hodgson accusing England fans after that France match of "watching in silence, and then becoming abusive when one or two things go wrong.''

Hodgson also had to withstand withering criticism after his ordeal against Nonu by then-interim England coach Rob Andrew, who said "bits of test rugby are not optional.''

"It is pleasing to be back in the squad ... the fact that I have gone through those (hard) times and come out the other side is a good judge of character,'' Hodgson said.

"Obviously you aren't pleased you get that adversity, but the fact I have come through those things and the coaches deem that I am good enough to be here still is a good thing for me. I am just more relaxed about things and it put things in perspective.''

Hodgson is set to be one of four Saracens players - with Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and David Strettle - in a new-look England backline at Murrayfield.

At least eight of the 22-man squad selected on Thursday will be uncapped.

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