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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Captain leads from the front
Dave Hodges in action for the USA
Three outings at the World Cup will take Hodges to the 50-cap mark
The fickle finger of fate has a funny way of finding Dave Hodges when the stakes are high.

The USA skipper has enjoyed a largely free run from injury in a career that has seen the robust loose-forward cum second-rower fly about the field for both club and country.

But that good fortune has been interrupted on two notable occasions in both 1999 and 2003, otherwise known as World Cup years.

Four years ago Hodges broke a rib in his first World Cup game, but showed a stoical spirit by strapping himself up and getting back into action for his country's subsequent games.

In June this year he tore pectoral muscles in the Churchill Cup against England, an injury that seriously jeopardised his chances of fulfilling a dream of leading his country out at the tournament.

But once again the 35-year-old has shown remarkable strength of mind, as well as commitment to the cause, after the initial diagnosis from the doctors.

"They said it would be close but you can't get down in the dumps about these things," Hodges told the BBC Sport website.

"You've just got to focus on getting better and from day one after the surgery that was my job, to get better."

Since having the muscle reattached Hodges has been undergoing physiotherapy five times a week as well as maintaining his regular training regime.

Everyone wants to go to a World Cup and it's something special when you're there
Dave Hodges
The rigorous programme of rehabilitation has paid off.

Hodges will lead the Eagles out despite their first World Cup match coming three weeks before the normal recovery time cut off of four months.

The captain's presence will be a tremendous spur to an otherwise inexperienced squad.

"When we went into the last World Cup not one of the guys had been involved in a World Cup, but now there are a group of us who have that experience.

"You have more experience in terms of the intensity of the games and the importance of the occasion.

"There will be more of a spotlight on them [the players] than at any time in their career, but they must not lose the importance of each and every game."

As well as being fired by a responsibility to the team, Hodges has been motivated by the knowledge that this will be his last World Cup.

It could also be the last time he pulls on his country's jersey.

"There's a very good possibility that our last World Cup game may be my last international game.

"I'm still deciding on that and it's 50/50 going into the tournament."

Time will tell on which way the finger of fate points come the conclusion of his World Cup, but for now what is certain is that Hodges is 100% behind the team's cause.





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