Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Busting the myth - Woodcock

All Black prop Tony Woodcock will enjoy the prospect of facing an under-powered Welsh front row next weekend.

Tony Woodcock helped pop the legend of Martin Castrogiovanni. Photo / Getty Images
Tony Woodcock helped pop the legend of Martin Castrogiovanni. Photo / Getty Images

Tony Woodcock was once described as a myth by former Wallaby prop Andrew Blades.

He was half right - Woodcock is in fact a mythbuster, having popped the legend, or perhaps that should be curse, of Martin Castrogiovanni at the weekend.

The hirsute Italian is a cult hero in Europe where props and other big beasts are the superstars. Give the Italians and French, even the English, a choice between a searing backs move or a rollicking scrum and they will opt to watch the latter every time. It's in their blood and that's why Castrogiovanni strolls around the western parts of this continent much like the laird of the estate.

But there hasn't been universal acceptance of his standing in the world game. The All Blacks have had their doubts about him - suspected there's been a touch of smoke and mirrors about his work.

It irked them in 2009 when the final 10 minutes of the test in Milan descended into farce - referee Stu Dickinson continually penalising the All Blacks on their own line for scrum infringements, then being publicly berated by his boss, IRB referee manager Paddy O'Brien, a few days later for failing to see Italy boring in.

But it was too late - the upshot was that the reputation of Wyatt Crockett was hammered while the legend of Castrogiovanni was made.

Sunday's test provided a little taste of revenge as Woodcock dealt to Castrogiovanni. Scrum battles are usually a mystery but this one was easy enough to see - the Italian hooker was being forced up by the pressure Woodcock was exerting on Castrogiovanni. This was a clear-cut victory to Woodcock. His timing was perfect, the angle of attack well planned and it came down to this: Woodcock was better technically, tougher mentally and stronger physically. The Italian will continue to be adored but the All Blacks at least have the satisfaction that it was they, or more precisely Woodcock, who came to Rome, saw it and conquered it, so to speak.

But there is more to come - more points to prove, more scalps to take. The Welsh, in what is now a fairly typical state for November, are in disarray, their front-row in particular a source of some concern for coach Warren Gatland. He's been denied the services of Adam Jones, the one genuine world-class scrummaging force in Wales. The Samoans rattled and buckled the Welsh scrum and Woodcock will fancy he can dent the inexperienced Aaron Jarvis who is likely to play on Sunday.

The All Black warrior is now officially in the mood to inflict wilful damage having done so with some venom on Castrogiovanni. It felt good, felt like righting a wrong.

Woodcock a myth? Woodcock the legend more like.

- NZ Herald

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