Woodward sees funny side of Hansen's comments

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 26/10/2012
Jason Woodward
KENT BLECHYNDEN/FAIRFAX NZ
CROSSING DITCH: After missing out on a spot in the Hurricanes, Jason Woodward is setting sail for the Melbourne Rebels.

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Jason Woodward needed a laugh, once Wellington had been knocked out of NPC title contention.

And he got it this week, albeit from an unlikely source.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen turned out to be the cause of Woodward's mirth, using the Lions' outside back's signing with the Melbourne Rebels as evidence of Australian rugby's inability to find their own talent.

Woodward, a former New Zealand under-20 player, has accepted a two-year deal with the Rebels which, aside from giving him a shot at Super Rugby, will also see him become part of the Australian Rugby Union's development programme.

The 22-year-old twice offered his services to each of New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises, during Wellington's NPC campaign.

None were prepared to make him an offer and, with one already on the table from Melbourne, he will reluctantly pack his bags and head to The Lucky Country.

"My heart is set on playing Super Rugby and being an All Black. But when you don't get those opportunities, you've got to take what's there," Woodward said.

"If I said no to a Super Rugby contract, when it was my only offer, I'd be regretting that right now."

Hansen mentioned Woodward's situation to reporters in Brisbane on Sunday, at the same time as the Lions were drowning a few sorrows following the previous night's semifinal loss to Auckland. It took Woodward a couple of days to catch up with Hansen's comments and, when he did, he struggled to know what to make of them.

"It's quite strange. Obviously I was quite chuffed at being mentioned, but it's a bit late really. I'd already signed with Melbourne because there was going to be no Super Rugby for me in New Zealand in 2013," the St Patrick's College Silverstream old boy said.

He knows Hansen is not alone in disapproving of New Zealand players signing with Australian franchises.

"But I didn't have the option of staying in New Zealand. If I did and chose Aussie instead, then it might be different.

"But I didn't and it was either take this offer or leave it."

Once Woodward arrives in Melbourne, he will have three years to wait before he is eligible for Wallaby selection.

But he hopes it will not come to that and that a New Zealand franchise will whisk him home once his initial Rebels contract expires.

"If not, I'm a big fan of taking your opportunities while they're there."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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