ENGLAND full-back Alex Goode chose to model his game on New Zealand’s Leon MacDonald after accepting he will never be the next Jason Robinson.
Goode delivered his most assured international performance yet in Sunday’s 12-6 RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland in rain-swept Dublin, thriving in the difficult conditions.
The 24-year-old, a converted fly-half, has taken ownership of England’s full-back jersey with his ability to act as a second receiver increasing his influence within the team.
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 game-changers,’’ he said.
‘‘But Jason Robinson is a one-off, you don’t just wake up and say ‘I want to be like him’. He’d still probably beat me in a phone box now, because he’s one of those guys.
‘‘I played with him for Help the Heroes. Training with him was amazing, he was phenomenal during touch rugby even though he had not put on a pair of boots for 18 months. He was a great player.
‘‘When I moved to full-back I studied a lot of full-backs. Leon McDonald became a big role model, someone I looked at who had similar attributes to myself.
‘‘Eddie Jones (Saracens’ former director of rugby and Australia coach) pushed that.
‘‘We studied his game and what he brought to the party. 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.
‘‘I was never going to be just like one player, but I would try to take a bit from this and a bit from that.’’
Goode’s game management, vision and kicking are important enough to England to compel coach Stuart Lancaster to select him ahead of Ben Foden and Mike Brown for the Six Nations, 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. That’s what I’m there to do.
‘‘But a full-back’s role is to be a game-breaker and make problems for the opposition. It’s still fundamentally about handling the high ball safely.
‘‘You’re not going to have just one kicker – everyone kicks these days – so it’s also about organising the back three and looking out for everyone.’’
Successive victories over New Zealand, Scotland and Ireland – each of them highly impressive in their individual way – have brought renewed optimism to English rugby.
But the ever-unpredictable French, who have lost to Italy and Wales, visit Twickenham on Saturday week and Goode understands the value of caution.
‘‘It was great beating New Zealand but we need to take that self-belief and move forward. We’re under no illusions about France,’’ he said.
‘‘They can do anything and have got world-class players. They have not become bad overnight.
‘‘We’re moving in the right direction and we keep building towards 2015, but not getting ahead of ourselves. The moment we get too big for ourselves we are in trouble.’’
England full-back Alex Goode was speaking at the launch of the O2 Touch tour organised by the RFU and O2, proud Partner of England Rugby, to get more people involved in rugby www.rfu.com/O2Touch.