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
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
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