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Josh Hodge
An Exclusive 360 Interview

There was something about Josh Hodge that caught my attention, the moment we were introduced. For a professional rugby player who spends his time fronting up against some of the biggest personalities in sport, he has a gentle, calm demeanour that oozes an innate self-confidence; an inspiring quality in one so, relatively, young.

 

The truth be known, he reminds me of my own three sons. That focus, respect and desire to learn from those who have been before them, while confidently carving their own path, evident. It’s a quality I’m seeing more and more in older Gen Z’s who have their eyes well & truly fixed on the horizon.

In getting to know Josh, I can't help but be excited for his future.  While he is by no means the finished article, his mindset, bigger picture thinking and dedication to excellence & improvement, form the foundation for a career that has all the makings of standing out amid a sea of extraordinary talent. 

 

Standing on the shoulders of giants, Josh is a man who epitomises sportsmanship both on and off the pitch.

 

It is an absolute pleasure to welcome him to 360, so please enjoy this exclusive, candid chat, with a young, professional, sportsman with the world at his feet. 

 

Stay inspired. Stay curious. 

 

Tracey

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Josh, at 23, you've achieved remarkable milestones in your professional rugby career. Could you walk us through the key moments that have shaped your journey so far? Let’s start from the very beginning—when did it all kick off for you?

 

It all began when I was nine, just playing touch rugby in my primary school yard. I was coached by Debs Collier, who's been really influential in promoting the sport. She spotted something in me early on and suggested I try out for a scholarship at Sedbergh School. That’s where it all started. I got the scholarship, and things just progressed naturally from there. I was involved in several sports, but rugby was the standout for me, and I stuck with it all the way to my first professional contract at 18. Never took a break, really. Sport’s been a constant in my life since I could walk, so it's been a pretty fluid journey with no real interruptions
 

You mentioned your involvement in various sports during your youth. What other paths might you have pursued if you had chosen a different sport over rugby?

 

Football was a big one for me. I was quite into it and spent a lot of time training around the Preston North End Academy. I was also really involved in athletics and decathlon. Actually, I managed to come fifth in the country in the under 21 category when I was about 17, which was pretty decent. Then there was shooting—I really enjoyed that, too. I was part of the GB setup for under 21s when I was 15, training every weekend. It was great fun, but eventually, I had to focus more on rugby, which was becoming my main priority. Still, the skills I developed, especially in shooting with hand-eye coordination, stayed with me. It’s something I can always go back to for a bit of fun.

 

Given that you're still in the earlier years of what promises to be a stand-out career, which experiences stand out as particularly influential? What were some of the defining moments?

 

One of the key moments was definitely working under my first team coach at school, Simon Mulholland. He's had a huge influence on me, taking me under his wing from an early stage. He’s from New Zealand, so he brought that dynamic, run-and-play style that really shaped how I approach the game. 

 

Another pivotal time was being an apprentice under Eddie Jones during the Six Nations in 2020, right before the lockdown. Getting that call-up was a dream, really showing me what I could aim for with England. 

Then, making my premiership debut during COVID, playing against Bristol Bears. We were underestimated, but we won, and it felt like we were defying the odds, which was incredibly gratifying. 

 

And not too long ago, getting to wear the England jersey again against Portugal and scoring—that was special. 

 

Each of these moments has not just been about playing, but learning and growing at each step, really building the foundation for where I’m headed. It’s been about seizing every opportunity, pushing through every challenge, and just living the dream of playing at this level.


 

Balancing the demands of high-stakes professional sports with your personal life must involve significant sacrifices, especially given your success at such a young age. How do you manage to maintain this balance between your professional ambitions and your personal life?

 

Honestly, I find it quite easy to switch off from rugby when I'm not at the club. I have a lot of hobbies that really help me decompress and shift my focus away from the game. Whether it’s going out shooting, which I really enjoy, or just taking my car out, it helps me clear my head. 

And spending time with friends—many of whom I've made here in Exeter. Being far from home can be tough, but having friends and family visit for games makes a huge difference.

Balancing everything isn't just about managing time; it's about making sure I’m mentally switched on when I need to be, and equally, knowing when it’s time to step back and recharge. This balance is crucial, not just for my performance on the pitch but for my overall wellbeing. It's all about the reset and recovery, right? Physically, sure, I’m taking care of my body with all the right treatments, but mentally, it’s about giving myself that space to relax and then refocus, ready for training again.

 

Can you elaborate on your philosophy as a player.  How do the lessons and skills from the game help you engage with and impact your audience off the field? How do you find the principles of rugby applicable to everyday situations?

Yeah, absolutely. Rugby is all about cohesion and building a culture where everyone is invested in each other's success. My philosophy on the field is to always perform at my best because it sets the stage for everyone else to rise to their best too. That's something I take off the field as well. Whether I’m interacting with fans, speaking at events, or just in my personal life, I aim to bring out the best in others by being my best self. It’s about making people feel comfortable and supported, so they can excel in whatever they’re doing. This approach is crucial in rugby, especially when you’re dealing with new or younger players entering the team environment. I remember what it was like being new myself and having those experienced players guide me. Now, I try to be that person for others, ensuring they’re on the right path, feeling confident and supported. It's about lifting each other up, and I think that’s a principle that applies just as strongly in everyday life as it does on the rugby field. Whether it’s mentoring a young player or offering advice during a talk, the goal is the same: empower and support, creating an environment where everyone can succeed. 

 

Beyond this fundamental principle, what other insights from your rugby career do you find particularly effective in enhancing high performance in other areas, such as in business environments?

Giving your best is fundamental, that's true. But what really takes it to the next level, especially in rugby and in business too, is the ability to step back and analyse. In rugby, after every game and practice session, we review the footage. We look at what went well and what didn't, whether it's a pass or a tactical play. This isn't just about critiquing; it's about understanding deeply why things happened the way they did and how we can improve next time.

During my recovery from my elbow injury, I spent a lot of time analysing past performances. It wasn’t just about keeping engaged while I couldn’t play; it was about refining my approach so when I returned, I’d be even better. This method of continuous improvement, of breaking down performance into manageable pieces, that's something that translates directly into any high-performance environment. In business, for instance, it's about not just doing your job but continually assessing outcomes and processes to find better ways of doing things. Always aiming for improvement, even in small increments, ensures that over time, these small adjustments add up and can lead to significant advancements. It's about building up those skills and strategies bit by bit, making sure that when it’s go-time, you’re ready to perform at your absolute best. 

 

In high-performance fields like military & professional sport, the debrief is often considered as crucial as the mission or game itself. In your experience, how do you maintain a balance during these debriefs between analysing what went wrong and celebrating what went right? How important is managing this balance to ensure it positively affects your mindset and performance?

If we've got stuff to learn, we'll focus on that, no matter how long it takes to nail those skills down. But also, when things go well, you've got to acknowledge that, but not dwell on it too much because that's already in the past. What's important is to keep improving, even if it’s just by 1% each time. So, for me, even if a game goes well, I'll look at it, take what's good from it, but then quickly shift focus to areas that still need work. Because nothing's ever perfect, right? There are always little things here and there that you can tweak to improve, to get that bit better each time. It’s about constant improvement, focusing on the details that can make a difference next time around.

When it comes to talks & engagements, what do you hope your audience takes away from their time with you? 

Honestly - that anything's possible. I always say, never think something's impossible. Even when it feels like you're at your limit, there’s always a bit more in you, always another 20 or 30% to push. I want everyone to walk away understanding that no matter how good they think they’ve done, there's always room to grow, always small improvements to make. Never stop believing. You don't know when your moment's going to come, but everything happens for a reason. If there’s a setback, it’s just an opportunity to learn and get better, not just on the field but off it as well. It’s about pushing yourself to be better, making those around you feel supported, and giving your all, every single time. That’s what I strive for, and that’s the message I hope sticks with people. 

 

Is there a particular time when you've had to remind yourself of this - to not give up? 

I'm usually quite confident in my abilities, but sure, there have been moments that really tested me. Like when I was injured. It happened at a time when I was in great form, which you could say was lucky in a way. I believed I’d bounce back faster than the predictions, and I did, which got me back playing for England. 

But during that recovery, maintaining a positive outlook was crucial. You can’t dwell on the past, or on what went wrong, because that’s just wasting time I could spend improving. Staying positive, especially through an injury, is vital because any bit of negativity can set you back even further, maybe lose a day or a week of training. So, I kept focused on the recovery process, kept my fans updated—keeping them in the loop helped me too, knowing they were cheering for me to return stronger. It’s about pushing through and always striving to come back better than before.

You moved to the other side of the country when you signed for Exeter Chiefs, during the lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic. At just 20, that must have been a challenging period. How did this move influence both your personal and professional growth?

The move was definitely a big change, but it was the right decision, no doubt about it. Watching Exeter play before I joined, I knew I wanted to be part of the team. The vibe, the way they played—it was incredible. Personally, moving away from home wasn't easy. It was a bit lonely, to be honest, but I’ve always been quite driven, which helped a lot.

Professionally, having my own space meant I could really focus on what I needed to do—train, rest, and just generally stay in the zone without too many distractions. It was all about discipline, keeping to my schedule, and not getting sidetracked. It was tough - moving away during a lockdown when you can’t even visit family or have them come over. But these are the sacrifices you make if you want to excel in professional sports. It’s those little sacrifices that test how much you want it.

And this move, it just reinforced for me that if you're serious about your career, sometimes you've got to do things that are uncomfortable at first. It was a time for me to really figure out what I was about, what I wanted to achieve. It made me realise the importance of making every training session count, giving everything for the team, and just continuously working on being the best version of myself, not just for me but for everyone counting on me—fans, teammates, coaches. So, yeah, challenging for sure, but absolutely crucial for my growth both on and off the pitch.

 

You've been described as England's “next rugby superstar” and as “a player with no limits” by your coach at Exeter Chiefs, Ali Hepher. How do you handle these high expectations? 

It's really great to hear those kinds of things said about you.  It reflects all the hard work you’ve put in. But, you've got to remember, at the end of the day, it's just a label and you can’t be happy & content with just a label. You’ve still got to go out there and prove it every single day. 

For me, it's about not getting too caught up in the hype. I use it as motivation to keep setting goals, keep pushing my limits. Because what really matters is not what you're labelled as today, but what you've actually achieved when you look back at the end of your career. Have you done everything you could have? Have you reached the potential others saw in you? That’s the real question. So, while it's good to be recognised, my focus is on living up to those expectations every day, improving game by game, and just making sure I'm always putting the best version of myself out there on the pitch. That’s how I handle it; keep working, keep striving, and never settle.

How do you envision your growth over the next decade, and what areas are you focusing on, particularly for your personal development now?

For the next step in my career, I'm really looking to bulk up a bit more. I've been quite agile on the field, able to dart around opponents, but there are times you just can't avoid a tackle and need that extra strength to break through. Adding some more body weight will help me handle those situations better, let me break a few more tackles, maybe get more offloads in the game. That's my focus on the field right now.

Off the field, I've been getting into a bit more media work, doing appearances for BT Sports and speaking engagements. I really enjoy that side of things—it's something I started to develop back when I was at Sedbergh School, learning to communicate effectively, just chatting with people and building relationships. Since moving to Chiefs, I've had to widen my social circle, make new friends outside rugby, which has been great for me personally. It’s important to have that support network, especially when you're living away from home. 

 

Josh, thank you for your time today. Let’s wrap this up with a word on setbacks. You’ve shown remarkable resilience and preparation in your career, minimising surprises and effectively facing challenges. However, disappointments are inevitable. How do you handle setbacks or disappointments when they arise, and what strategies do you use to move past them?

When disappointments hit, the first thing I do is try to understand why it happened—get to the root of it, you know? Once I've figured out the reasoning, it's all about learning from that. You can't just sit around and dwell on it. It’s important to take that reason and work on it, make changes so that whatever caused that disappointment doesn't happen again. Basically, you turn that reason into something positive, something that drives you. Make it so you’re improving, so next time, there’s no reason for it not to go right. That’s how I handle setbacks. Just keep pushing forward, ensuring each experience, good or bad, teaches me something valuable.

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