Rosscarbery man determined to hit ground running at U20 Rugby World Cup
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
JOHN Hodnett didn’t have far to travel to collect his West Cork Sports Star Monthly award.
He’s from Curraheen in Rosscarbery. Home is 500 metres from the Celtic Ross Hotel when he picked up his award for March that was in recognition of his role in Ireland’s U20 Six Nations Grand Slam success.
Hodnett was central to Ireland’s triumph, a key cog in head coach Noel McNamara’s team, as he played all five games and also scored one try.
Now the Rosscarbery man is getting ready to travel once more, but it’s a lot longer than home to the Celtic Ross – he’s heading to Argentina at the end of the month with Ireland for the World U20 Rugby Championships, also known as the World Cup.
Hodnett, as well as Keakill’s Josh Wycherley, have been named in the Irish 32-man extended panel, which will be cut down to 28 before flying out. Hodnett and Wycherley will be on that flight.
‘I’m looking forward to it alright,’ says the 20-year-old UCC student who feels there’s more to come from the Grand Slam champions.
‘There’s a good squad there and we feel we can push on and play even better.
‘We want to perform to the best of our ability and if we do that, the results should look after themselves.
‘We need to make sure that we are happy with our performances and if we are, then I’m sure we’ll get to where we want to be.’
Hodnett and Ireland are in Pool B with Australia, England and Italy for the tournament that will take place from June 4th to 22nd. Ireland will play their games in Santa Fe at the Club de Rugby Atheneo Immaculada.
First up on Tuesday, June 4th, will be familiar rivals England. Ireland beat a fancied English team (35-27) in the Six Nations opener in Cork at the start of February. Hodnett knows that this is a key game to kick off the world championships and he knows too that England will want revenge.
‘We know we need to improve from the Six Nations, as good as that was, and we need to be ready for the first game against England. That’s the target now,’ he says.
‘They’ll be looking for some payback after the Six Nations but we are preparing well and hopefully we can beat them again.
‘Preparations are going well.’
Ireland’s second Group B game is against Australia and then they will finish off against the Italians, who they also beat in the Six Nations (34-14 away).
Hodnett was one of Ireland’s standout performers in the entire campaign. The Ross man made the number eight position his own. He broke tackles constantly and carried the ball relentlessly.
‘I was happy enough with how I played and hopefully I can keep the performances consistent in the world cup now as well,’ says Hodnett, who actually played more football than rugby when he was growing up.
He started playing rugby with Clonakilty RFC when he was seven or eight and he also played football with Carbery Rangers all the way up to minor. When he was selected for the Munster U18 Club side, he had to make a decision. He chose rugby.
‘I played more GAA than rugby and GAA always came first until I was 17, 18, and then I opted for rugby,’ he says. It’s a decision he hasn’t regretted.
He has cousins, like Mark Hodnett, involved with the Ross seniors but he’s more than happy with the path he chose to follow.
He is just finished first year at UCC where he’s studying PE Teaching and maths – his ‘dream course’ – and he is after a season of AIL rugby with UCC too, which has also progressed his development.
Hodnett also played for Munster A in the Celtic Cup last September. That team also included the Coombes cousins, Gavin and Liam, from Skibbereen.
Add in Josh Wycherley and his older brother Fineen, who has made waves with Munster this season, as well as Darren Sweetnam, and the current strength of rugby in West Cork becomes obvious.
A good World U20 Rugby Championships for Hodnett and Josh Wycherley (who also received a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star monthly Award) will only add to their rising reputations.