ENGLAND full-back Alex Goode chose to model his game on New Zealand’s Leon MacDonald after accepting he would never be the next Jason Robinson.
Goode thrived in difficult conditions in Sunday’s 12-6 RBS Six Nations victory over Ireland in Dublin and the 24-year-old converted stand-off has taken ownership of England’s full-back jersey.
When making the positional switch he initially looked to Robinson for inspiration, until realising the highly regarded MacDonald, who won 56 caps for the All Blacks between 2000-08, was a better fit. “When I was growing up I liked watching the likes of Christian Cullen and Jason Robinson because they were gamechangers,” he said. “But Jason Robinson is a one-off, you don’t just wake up and say I want to be like him.
“I played with him for Help the Heroes. Training with him was amazing, he was phenomenal even though he had not put on a pair of boots for 18 months.
“When I moved to full-back I studied a lot of full-backs. Leon McDonald became a big role model, who had similar attributes to myself.
“Eddie Jones [Saracens’ former director of rugby and Australia coach] pushed that. We studied his game. He won things for Canterbury and New Zealand and I admired him. He always had a lot of time on the ball and seemed to make the right decisions.”
Goode’s game management, vision and kicking prompted England coach Stuart Lancaster to pick him ahead of Ben Foden and Mike Brown, even though he had spent five weeks out with a shoulder injury.
“Roles change all the time. They key thing for the backline is to have a solid defence and help the number 10,” Goode said. “I see my game as helping out there as far as possible, whether that’s helping kicking or organising the defence.
“But a full-back’s role is to be a gamebreaker and make problems for the opposition. It’s still fundamentally about handling the high ball safely.”