Blues prop Alex Hodgman cops three-week suspension

The Blues’ road home in Super Rugby Aotearoa just got even more precipitous with the predictable suspension of their All Blacks prop Alex Hodgman for the rest of the competition.

Hodgman on Monday copped a three-week suspension from the Sanzaar judiciary on the back of his red card in Friday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The 27-year-old, who got his first All Blacks callup in 2020, had been sent off in the 72nd minute of the sloppy 35-29 defeat for driving his shoulder into the chin of Highlanders loose forward James Lentjes. It was an ugly incident that brokered little argument at the time for earning the ultimate sanction.

Hodgman entered a guilty plea and was ruled out of all forms of rugby for three weeks, up to and including May 8 which is the date of the final. Should the Blues not make the playoff, the judiciary reserved its right to revisit the suspension.

The Blues do have useful depth at prop, with Samoa international James Lay and Marcel Renata also on hand to slot in alongside their remaining trio of All Blacks in Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi and Nepo Laulala.

However Hodgman’s loss will still be keenly felt. He had been one of New Zealand rugby’s big movers in 2020 with a string of powerful performances earning him his first All Blacks callup.

The Blues have little room for error over the run home, after losing three of their last four matches in a tight Aotearoa competition which looks set for a grandstand finish.

They sit third on the standings on 15 points, one behind the second-placed Chiefs and one ahead of the Highlanders. “We're still in the game,” said Blues coach Leon MacDonald after Friday’s defeat in Dunedin. “This is a tough comp. Anybody can beat anybody and we’re still we're good enough to challenge.”

With two rounds remaining, four of the five sides are still in the running for a spot in the May 8 final.