Rugby: New situation refreshing for Woodcock

Highlanders scrum coach Kees Meeuws (rear) watches new Highlanders prop Tony Woodcock at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Highlanders scrum coach Kees Meeuws (rear) watches new Highlanders prop Tony Woodcock at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
First impressions count and they appear to be all good for All Black prop Tony Woodcock.

Woodcock, the country's most experienced prop with 96 test caps to his name over a 11-year period, joined up with the Highlanders this week to begin life with his new franchise.

So far so good has been the case for the loosehead prop.

''It is definitely a different environment and I'm enjoying it. I had 10 years up there and it is definitely refreshing, more stimulating,'' he said.

''I wanted to experience something different. When the opportunity came up I wanted to give it a crack.''

Woodcock, who turned 32 last Sunday, said changing franchises was more about what was down at the Highlanders rather than being forced out by the Blues.

''The opportunity came up and I just thought about sticking in one spot your whole life. I thought I would try something different. A few things attracted me down here.

''Definitely the way they operate down here and obviously a bit closer to family and everything is a wee bit more condensed and closer.''

Taking only a few minutes to drive to training in Dunedin was one plus, the gridlocks of the Auckland traffic a memory.

Woodcock had a good break after the end of the All Black tour, and was now slowly getting his body up to speed. He felt he was at about 80% fitness but still had three weeks to get prepared for the start of the season.

Woodcock, who has been joined by his wife and two children in Dunedin, did not solely come south just for a change of scenery though.

Like any professional sportsman, and experienced All Black, he wants to win.

''Obviously we have an exciting bunch here, and is it an exciting challenge. We have got to set our sights really high. We have got the personnel here. If we do things right we will be a real chance.''

That means being victorious and nothing stops short of that.

''We have set our sights as high as you can. We have got the belief here. Experience helps, there is no doubt about that. We have a good mix here.

''But experience does mean a lot. It is a long competition and you get tested. You get put in situations that sometimes you can't train for and it is good to have that experience there.''

Woodcock, who scored the only try for the All Blacks in the World Cup final, said it was great to have a key man from that winning World Cup side back in lock Brad Thorn.

''He is a pretty awesome player and is still in great shape. He came back really good. He does not say a lot but when he says something the boys really listen.''

Woodcock has seen plenty of the Highlanders region already as he is a regular visitor to friend and All Black team-mate Andrew Hore's farm in the Maniototo.

He also went with the Highlanders squad to the Greenstone Valley last weekend.

''It was a nice day in there. We just did a few activities, sorted out a few things and it was pretty much free time after that.''