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Van Dijk tips Rodriguez to help Southampton march on without Austin

By Nick Purewal

Virgil van Dijk has backed Jay Rodriguez to spearhead Southampton's Premier League charge after his two-goal turn at Bournemouth.

Rodriguez bagged his first league goals on the road since March 2014 in Sunday's 3-1 win at Dean Court, ending Saints' five-match barren run away from home in the top-flight.

Charlie Austin will miss three months with shoulder trouble, and Van Dijk believes that paves the way for Rodriguez to step into the breach.

"I'm very pleased for Jay and I told him it was well deserved," said Van Dijk. "He's a great guy, so it's great to see him right up there again now and hopefully he can keep it going after Christmas."

A serious knee ligament injury curtailed Rodriguez's hopes of heading to the World Cup with England two years ago, and the Saints forward has only now managed to work back to full sharpness.

Claude Puel would have let Rodriguez head out on loan at the start of the campaign but he has fought his way back into contention and Van Dijk revealed he was even among the side's top physical performers in their 1-0 league win over Middlesbrough on December 11.

He added: "He has worked hard. I saw the numbers and he had a lot of high-speed running."

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