The quiet assassin of the All Blacks pack makes his first test start since the World Cup quarterfinal on Saturday, and you sense Tony Woodcock's not in the mood for another loss.
Woodcock, who was sidelined from the All Blacks' opening two tests of the season with a toe injury, will pack down at loosehead for his 38th test in Wellington, having nudged Neemia Tialata back to the bench.
Widely regarded as the world's premier loosehead, Woodcock was given a slap during the Super 14 by former Wallabies prop Andrew Blades, who called the 27-year-old a rugby myth and not as effective without departed chums Carl Hayman and Anton Oliver.
Despite his injury troubles, Woodcock scrummaged strongly in 40 minutes of the second test against England and enjoyed a full game of North Harbour club rugby on Saturday – declaring himself more than ready to pack down against Springboks tighthead C J van der Linde.
"I've been out for a while but it's all good now, I've done some good preparation and feeling pretty good," Woodcock said.
"It's basically in your foot, round the big toe area, and I think quite a few guys have had a long time off with it . . . so I just needed a good rest on it and it's come good."
Woodcock was constantly monitoring the problem, keeping the load off it, wearing orthotics and not wearing sprigged boots too often.
Woodcock heaped praise on the Springboks and the threat they posed up front.
"It's going to be a huge challenge, they're the best in the world at what they do," he said.
"They certainly like to impose themselves at set-piece and they're very physical – that's what they love to do."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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