Tony Woodcock injury offers up 'valuable time'
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen appears resigned to losing test veteran Tony Woodcock for the rest of 2014 - though he believes there is a significant upside to the loosehead prop's likely season-ending injury.
Hansen wrapped up the second day of a mini-camp with his non-Crusaders All Blacks in Auckland today, and said the prognosis was looking increasingly dim for Woodcock who was battling a serious shoulder problem.
The Blues' 110-test veteran has been replaced by Crusaders backup prop Joe Moody for the first two tests of the Rugby Championship, which kicked off with the Bledisloe opener on August 16 in Sydney, but Hansen admitted that was looking like being a more permanent arrangement.
Asked if things were "on the up" with Woodcock who was kitted out in training gear today, Hansen said the reality was quite the opposite.
"His shoulder is pretty loose, so we'll see what happens over the next seven days, then make a decision from there.
''There's no point mucking around - if it's not going to be right we might as well get it operated on. He'll get his first pre-season of note for 12 years, so there are some positives in it."
Hansen, when pressed, admitted it was more likely that Woodcock would get surgery at this stage. That would see him miss the remainder of the season.
"Whenever you get something that's disappointing, you've got to look for the positives," Hansen said.
"The positives are he'll get six or seven months before he has to play again.
"When you've been on the circuit as long as he has, that's valuable time.
"We'll fresh him up and get a revitalised Tony Woodcock [back]. The last test he played was pretty special, so if we can get some of that again that will be great."
The All Blacks coach said he was comfortable with his depth at loosehead prop, with Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks and Moody covering the position in the meantime, and less experienced sorts like Kane Hames, Pauliasi Manu and Tim Perry also on the radar.
Hansen confirmed openside flanker Sam Cane, who hasn't played any rugby since injuring his knee for the Chiefs on May 9, had proven his readiness in fitness testing and was ready to play whatever role required.
Meanwhile, Hansen has weighed in on the sevens debate, saying he had no problem with select All Blacks being part of the campaign for Olympic gold in 2016.
The trick, he said, was to put a process in place that would allow both the sevens programme and a likely rebuilding All Blacks one to achieve their goals in 2016.
"It's going to be a big year for whoever's in the [All Blacks]," Hansen added.
"There could be a lot of changes, so you wouldn't want a whole lot of people to go. But certainly there's room for some people to go and it's just about getting that balance right.
"It will affect the franchises as well. We don't want one franchise affected by losing a whole lot of players. There have been some really good discussions about it, no one is panicking, and everyone is on the same page.
"It's a massive opportunity at the Olympics, as is test rugby, so I'm sure the NZRU will do what's right and Titch will have a really good side and the All Blacks will have a really good side."
Hansen said the All Blacks and sevens programmes had to find a way to co-exist.
"We're going to have to because the New Zealand public will expect us to win gold in Rio and will expect us to win test matches from an All Blacks point of view.
"They have to co-exist, and that's why we have to be smart about how we go about it."
The All Blacks reassemble in Auckland next Thursday and will have a triple-header practice hitout against Northland and Northland on Friday.