Enrique Edgardo Rodriguez
- 644Wallaby Number
Enrique Rodriguez was arguably the best prop forward to ever play for Australia, and possibly also Argentina. Blessed with strength, mobility and athleticism, Rodriguez had great durability and his professionalism bordered on the fanatical, particularly towards his preparation. In addition his work ethic and attention to detail made him a role model for aspiring front rowers at every level of the game. However, he was not always a front rower. Rodriguez first played the game aged 19 with the National University of Cordoba Rugby Club. He started his career on the wing, moved to centre, then fly half, skipped halfback and tried his hand in the back-row before he finally graduated to the front-row and played all three positions.
From 1979 through 1983 Rodriguez won 13 Test caps for Argentina. He toured Australia with the Pumas in 1983 and destroyed the Wallaby scrum in Brisbane. A year later, Rodriguez emigrated from his native Cordoba to build a new life in Sydney. Within two months he was selected to make his debut for New South Wales against Queensland and almost immediately became the first choice selection for Australia. By June he was in Suva for his Test debut against Fiji. Rodriguez went on to dominate the loose head position in a period of great success for the Wallabies and he presided over perhaps the most memorable achievement for an Australian scrum - the push-over try against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park during the 1984 Grand Slam Tour.
One of his most memorable on-field moments came during the 1986 Bledisloe Cup series in New Zealand. In the third and deciding Test and with New Zealand pressing for the decisive score Rodriguez pulled off an extraordinary front-on try saving tackle on hooker Hika Reid right on the Wallaby line. If the All Blacks had scored then the Bledisloe Cup would almost certainly have stayed on New Zealand shores. This single incident changed the psychological attitude and lifted the intensity of the whole Wallaby team. When Argentina toured Australia later that same year Rodriguez sang both national anthems.
He also turned the tables on the Pumas when he had forseen their tactics - they had picked three props in the front row with a view to overcome the Wallaby scrum by brute force - and prepared his eight accordingly. The Argentine strategy backfired and Australia recorded a comfortable series victory. On the 1987 tour to his homeland Rodriguez was afforded the honour of captaining the side in the uncapped match against Mendoza. Enrique ‘Topo’ Rodriguez played 26 Tests for Australia in a four-year Wallaby career. His contribution to the ‘golden years’ of Wallaby front row play should never be underestimated.
Rodriguez won his first Wallaby cap at loose head prop in the 16-3, one-off Test victory over Fiji in Suva. He would play all eight Tests of the season alongside Tom Lawton and Andy McIntyre.
Rodriguez, Lawton and McIntyre started in each of the opening four Tests - Canada (2), New Zealand and Fiji - before Mark McBain and Cameron Lillicrap were called up for the 2nd Test win over Fiji in Sydney
Rodriguez and Lawton played in all seven Tests of the year. McIntyre was the tighthead for the first four matches - Italy, France and Argentina (2) but when he was unavailable for the tour of New Zealand, Mark Hartill stepped into his position for the three Test Bledisloe Cup series.
In his final season of international rugby Rodriguez earned seven caps and was selected in the Australian squad for the Rugby World Cup. He played his final two Tests against Argentina in Buenos Aires.