While Jonny Wilkinson was busy making his latest comeback at Kingston Park on Friday night, up the A1 at Murrayfield Phil Godman was putting his feet up, enjoying a night off from Edinburgh team duty as a spectator in the West Stand. In his days as a fledgling Newcastle Falcon, Godman spent much of his time watching Wilkinson from the wings as his stand-off understudy. Now the one-time Jack is where his old master would like to be: getting ready for international duty as a No 10.
Frank Hadden does not formally announce the composition of his team for the first of Scotland's three autumn internationals until Tuesday, but Godman's omission from the Edinburgh 22 for Friday's Magners League fixture against Cardiff was a clear indication that the chunky outside-half would be required for starting duty against Romania at Murrayfield next Saturday. One of the unwritten laws of Scottish rugby is that members of the national coach's intended XV should be rested by the three Caledonian pro-teams the weekend before internationals. With Dan Parks having been free to play for Glasgow on Friday, the omens are certainly looking good for Godman.
"Er, yeah, I suppose they are," the 24-year-old said, chuckling but determined not to betray any inside knowledge of Scotland team plans. "At the beginning of the season I'd always looked at the autumn internationals as a chance to get some game time - not just 15 or 20 minutes but a start or some sustained time on the pitch. I'm hoping I'll get that."
Godman looked like getting some major game time in last season's autumn internationals after a man-of-the-match performance in Edinburgh's Heineken Cup victory against Wasps, but was left out of the 22 for the opening game, against Argentina, and was given 19 minutes against Samoa and 13 minutes against New Zealand, in both instances as a replacement for Parks. Added to the two minutes he got on his debut against Rom-ania in Bucharest in June 2005, that is more time than Wilkinson has played for England since the 2003 World Cup final, but still only 34 minutes in total.
"Obviously, to play any kind of international time is great," Godman said, "but, as a No 10, it's different starting a game rather than coming on. You can play your way into a game. To start and get 60 minutes, 80 minutes under my belt would be a big difference. It would be a great experience to have that opportunity and then see where I am after that."
Clearly, Hadden would like to see where Godman might be after being entrusted with an international start - and, it would seem (from Chris Paterson's inclusion in the Edinburgh team on Friday night), with the goalkicking duties too. The Scotland coach has effected a remarkable transformation since succeeding Matt Williams 14 months ago, turning a formerly ramshackle team into a winning force against France and England in last season's Six Nations. Still, with the World Cup looming, he knows he needs to find more strength, as well as depth, in certain areas.
One of those is at outside-half, where Parks has improved to efficient but hardly dynamic, and where Gordon Ross, who started in the position in the Second Test in South Africa in June, has yet to convince Hadden that he has the all-round game to play the pivotal role in an expansive Scotland side.
Godman played under Hadden at Merchiston Castle School and at Edinburgh. He knows how the Scotland coach wants his teams to play and what he wants from his outside-half - in Godman's case, something more than he was giving a year ago.
After omitting Godman from his Six Nations squad, Hadden told him he was looking for him to make more breaks, take more responsibility and increase the length of his kicks. "It was totally fair comment," Godman reflected. "There are things I've been working on and that I can still develop, but I feel more comfortable with my game now."
Having shown signs of improvement in the summer's Churchill Cup and in the opening two months of the season for Edinburgh, particularly in their narrow defeat at Agen a fortnight ago, Godman is keen to show what he can do in Hadden's burgeoning national side.
"Naturally I was disappointed not to be in the squad for the Six Nations," he said, "but it was brilliant to see Scotland playing well and showing such a massive difference from the year before. I didn't go to any of the games - I watched them on television - but I was as delighted as anyone else. There was a real sense of wanting to be involved in it.
"After the Matt Williams era things were in a right mess, and Frank has turned it around. He knows the game and he knows the best way for Scotland to play, to get the most out of the players."
Hadden also knows all about Scotland's likely new No 10, the former pupil he signed for Edin-burgh in the summer of 2004 after some high-class education at Newcastle.
"I learned a lot from Jonny Wilkinson, and from Rob Andrew," Godman said. "When I left Newcastle I always hoped that I would line up against Jonny, playing against England or something.
"I really hope that he gets back into an international jersey and that at some point I might play against him... It's quite a nice scenario."
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