The outstanding Alex Goode has always struck me as a slightly unlucky player. First, he is blessed with an all court game which alas sometimes frightens off timid selectors, while more recently he has suffered the misfortune of contesting the England full-back spot with Mike Brown, a huge crowd favourite on account of the Quin’s fist-clenched determination and Lion-hearted game.
For some reason it has become heresy to suggest that Goode should be the England starter ahead of Brown, but on the form over the last 12 months or more, there can be no other choice. What other team in the world would make Goode a peripheral player?
Nobody is undropable. Well almost nobody. Richard Hill was famously the only big name player who was never dropped by England and I’m pretty sure it was a similar case down in New Zealand with Richie McCaw.
Earlier this month Goode was rightly acclaimed the Aviva player of the season and again yesterday he was the obvious choice as the man-of-the-match, a decision that was easy to make even before he snaffled the match winner late in the second half.
Good has been on fire from September through to May and it is high time he be given his head with England again as a starting player.
Only once has Goode enjoyed a proper run in the England team and that was in the Autumn internationals in 2012, followed by the 2013 Six Nations. He was voted player of the series in the former, no little achievement, when England signed off with an historic win over the All Blacks at Twickenham which hinted at an exciting future.
He backed that up by playing a tidy hand in the Championship helping England to four wins on the trot before it all came crashing down in Cardiff when the England pack were taken apart.
Since then it’s be mainly been cameos off the bench, although Goode did play outstandingly well in a rare start, in the rain in Dublin last year, when he managed to shine in an England team that generally underperformed badly. On a wet day he was particularly good under the high ball.
Brown is renowned for his security under the high ball but how many times can you recall Goode ever found wanting in that department while the Saracen’s general kicking game is as sound as a bell as you might expect from s former academy player at Ipswich Town FC.
He lacks pace we are always told, although perhaps some are confusing him with Andy Goode! Alex Goode is probably never going to sprint 75 yards to score a try in Test rugby but he has speed enough. He beats players for fun with his footwork, first up tacklers, second up tacklers, all comers. Yesterday he made 149 metres in 19 carries. He is, in all respects, the epitome of a modern day attacking full-back.
What Goode may lack in pure gas he makes up for in speed of thought and intelligence. This was illustrated once in a cracking little training performance that was recorded for posterity by the Sky cameras a few seasons back.
Could he catch four consecutive Garryowen’s, fired off in quick succession, without putting any of the balls down? It was the £250,000 challenge at Wembley that week if memory serves and nobody thought it was possible.
Of course he could. He caught the first in textbook fashion, tucked it under one arm and then caught the second – a slightly wayward kick – with one hand. The third kick was the most wayward of all but he ran to the right position and then quickly placed one ball between his knees before catching the incoming punt one handed.
On the last kick he enjoyed his one bit of fortune in that it was accurate but this time he lined it up and then quickly transferred a ball from his left hand and wedged it between his thighs – above the ball between his knees – again catching the incoming ball one handed. Even watching on the TV it was impossible not to applaud. That is the kind of rugby brain you want involved running your back division.
Goode’s distribution skills have improved massively and it’s not difficult to see the influence of Charlie Hodgson here, the best passer of the ball the professional game in England has ever seen. His timing is sweet and when he opts for the miss pass – sometimes high risk against organised modern day defences – he cleverly sends it out at twice the normal speed and slightly lower which is normally the failsafe against interception.
With that vision at full-back and the speed and range of his passing, Goode could ignite a potentially exciting back division if England would just trust him. How good would it be to see Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph or Elliot Daly being unleashed by this master craftsman?
Goode is definitely the new Hodgson in terms of passing, he is the player that youngsters should study and emulate, the guy with time on the ball.
In fact he could be the new Hodgson in other respects as well, notably longevity. Just turned 28 he already has over 200 Saracens appearances under his belt and with pace not an issue he could play for the best part of another decade if injury doesn’t become one.
The Saracens club in recent years has become full of go-to talismanic figures. There is the recently retired Jacques Burger – sat in the stand yesterday with his shoulder in sling after another operation as he looks to repair his battered body – to the ultra competititve Owen Farrell, the phenomenal Maro Itoje, above, the understated but shrewd skipper Brad Barritt, the loyal and unsung Chris Wyles and the exuberant Schalk Brits.
But what is becoming increasingly clear is that the quietly spoken, unassuming, Goode is the most driven of them all, the player who more than any is propelling Saracens to new heights.
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