Tony Woodcock shouldn't have been surprised to find himself on a drip in an Auckland hospital last week instead of preparing for the All Blacks first test against France.
Anything that could have gone wrong this year for the veteran loose head this year has and the infected abscess in his nose was just another hiccup.
"It was just a bit of an infection that got out of hand and needed a strong dose of antibiotics to knock it on the head really," Woodcock said yesterday after being named in the reserves for the second test in Christchurch. "They actually chucked me on a drip and got some good antibiotics in. I thought so [it was a bit dramatic], but the lady who cut it open was pretty good about it as well."
Just what caused his beak to blow up is unclear, but if it was the stress of a season that's never really got going it would be understandable.
His move south to the Highlanders has been a tortuous affair with the team losing 11 of 13 matches.
Woodcock has managed only eight appearances due to a series of problems with his hamstrings. And he even had the misfortune of missing the one bright spot of the Highlanders season when they hammered the Blues 38-28 two weeks ago.
"It has been a tough season. When your team is not winning and things aren't going as you'd like it is frustrating," he said. "But that's life, you have to get on with it and keep improving and trying, and basically, just get on with it."
Woodcock, a 96 test veteran and long rated as one of the best loose-head props in world rugby, said his leg problems had been tracked back to tightness in his back caused by long haul flights.
"Yeah, I've had a couple of niggles this year. Really minor ones, so I'm not too worried about it. It's just come from a bit of travel and a bit of back tightness on the flight back from Perth," he said. "I think it's all tied up, long travel, I cramped up on the plane and I guess it tied up from there."
The 34-year-old's struggles have seen some commentators wonder if age had not caught up with the old warrior's legs and wearied his mind in his eleventh test season.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen doesn't see it that way.
"If you'd seen his nose last week you'd definitely say he hadn't had a happy year, pussy thing that it was," he smiled. "That summed his year up. He's come back and played and had two or three games and got injured, and in this case he's had his nose and ended up in hospital for two days.
"It's tested him physically. When you pull your hamstring that's got nothing to do with mental, when you have a big snotty abscess in your nose, I don't think that's mental. I think physically he's battled to get out on the park and that makes it really difficult."
And while Woodcock has to play second fiddle to Wyatt Crockett tomorrow night, Hansen suggested he will press hard for a recall as the year progresses.
"Front row is difficult. They need to play at least three games before they're comfortable at scrum time. We are putting a lot of work into him and the others who aren't starting, so maybe we can get away with two.
"I'm expecting Woody to flourish in this environment, he always has, he's played well and he's one of the best loose head props in world rugby. He's still got plenty of miles in him.
"Is there a chance for him to start? Yeah there is, but what he is going to need is a continual run of form. If we can get four, five, six, seven, eight games into him then I think we'll see the real Tony Woodcock."
- The Dominion Post
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