MELBOURNE, June 24 (Reuters) - The “crazy” atmosphere surrounding the British and Irish Lions was just the tonic Jesse Mogg needed to revive his international hopes and the highly fancied fullback has fingers crossed for a second crack at the tourists.
The 24-year-old was considered desperately unlucky to miss out on a place in Robbie Deans’s 31-man squad for the three-test series, but shrugged off the disappointment to play a key role in the ACT Brumbies’ stunning upset of the Lions last week.
Apart from slotting three penalty goals under enormous pressure, Mogg intercepted wave after wave of aerial bombs on a soggy night at Canberra Stadium and punched holes in the Lions line with a string of blistering breaks.
With Australia’s backline suffering a rash of injuries in Saturday’s first test loss at Lang Park, Mogg has been called into Wallabies camp as cover and is determined to train the house down in Melbourne this week ahead of Saturday’s second clash.
“It’s weird, the last three phone calls I’ve had from Robbie were to say that I hadn’t made it, so I was a bit nervous,” Mogg told Reuters in an interview on Monday at a luxury hotel in Melbourne.
“But to be here is another step closer to where I want to be. I’ll keep working hard at training during the week and put my hand up to be selected in the 23 (man squad).”
Mogg, who has helped the two-time champion Brumbies qualify for their first Super Rugby playoffs in nearly a decade, was in a provisional Wallabies camp back in April, but chose a poor day to put in a shocker ahead of the naming of an initial 25-man squad for the Lions last month.
With Deans watching in the stands, Mogg struggled with both hand and foot in a crunch match last month against New Zealand’s seven-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders. He was duly left out of the Wallabies training camp.
Weeks later, Mogg travelled to Brisbane to watch the Queensland Reds hand a huge scare to the Lions in their tour match and resolved not to take a backward step when he had his chance at the tourists.
“The whole atmosphere was very new to me. I was in Brisbane when the Reds played them and just to see the Lions fans around there was just crazy,” said Mogg, who gave up a budding rugby league career in sun-bathed Brisbane to train in Canberra’s cold winters.
”The atmosphere of the last quarter was brilliant, just massive. And what they brought to Canberra and how the Brumbies supporters responded was an unreal experience.
“Having played a team beforehand really helps my confidence going into a game. I know what the Lions will bring and I know the physicality and the sort of game they want to play.”
It will be another step up if Mogg slots into the Wallabies for the second test at Docklands Stadium, possibly as a replacement for the versatile Berrick Barnes, who was one of three Wallabies stretchered off at Lang Park after a heavy clash with a team mate.
The carnage was pretty much par-for-the-course, said Mogg, who pored over the game like a diligent student and groaned after watching dangerous Welsh winger George North pick off a clearing kick and storm nearly the length of the field for a brilliant individual try.
“There were times there where kicks probably shouldn’t have gone where they went. And they showed that if you give them easy ball they’re going to run 80 metres and score,” Mogg said.
“The step up from a midweek match to an international is just a little bit faster and you’ve just got to play almost a near-perfect game and not give them any opportunities.” (Editing by John O‘Brien)