Wynne Gray: Double cause to celebrate, and sexy to boot

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In the space of several magnificent minutes at Eden Park last night, Tony Woodcock gave props a sexy new image.

For too long they have been tagged as men who push in the scrums, tackle their opposites and lift the lineout jumpers; the blokes who complete the unglamorous, basic work in the freewheeling action which has invaded international rugby.

But Woodcock redefined that impression as he twice surged across the chalk to lead the quest for Bledisloe Cup redemption against the Wallabies.

The rugged loosehead prop combined the instincts of a top loose forward, the skills of a back and the crunchy low-body position of a front-row forward to bag his brace. He scored his first test tries last season in successive matches against the Wallabies and last night, against the same opposition, doubled that quota.

Move over Kees Meeuws, Woodcock is hunting down your record try tally as a prop for the men in black.

Crossing the stripe is no priority for someone like Woodcock though you suspect the toughened man of the land would have enjoyed taking the mickey out of his team-mates in the sanctuary of the dressing room once the game was done.

But first up Woodcock would have been proudest of the way he led the All Black scrum, how they muscled up on the Wallabies, how they turned the screw and made sure the visitors struggled to clear their ball from the base of the scrum.

Referee Mark Lawrence penalised Woodcock's opposite Al Baxter several times for incorrect engagement in the scrums in what was a reaction to the relentless pressure exerted by the Kaukapakapa farmer.

Woodcock's talent was spotted early and he became an All Black on the 2002 tour to the UK when a number of All Blacks were left at home to prepare for the following World Cup. He was overlooked for that event but, when fit, has been an automatic selection since.

A foot injury restricted his start to the test programme this season but since Woodcock healed and returned to the No 1 black jersey, the All Black scrum has looked stronger. The results had not gone New Zealand's way but they overturned that twin test run last night while Woodcock had double reason to celebrate.

- Herald on Sunday

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