x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Woodcock stands firm

The New Zealand front row Tony Woodcock is not allowing himself to be distracted by accusations of cheating in the scrums.

Tony Woodcock, centre, has been accused of using underhand moves to destabilise the scrum.
Tony Woodcock, centre, has been accused of using underhand moves to destabilise the scrum.

DUNEDIN // The New Zealand front row Tony Woodcock is not allowing himself to be distracted by accusations of cheating in the scrums from South Africa coach Peter de Villiers. The prop was singled out by De Villiers for what he perceived to be underhand moves to destabilise the scrum by "walking around" during last weekend's Tri-Nations opener in Wellington.

South Africa were also due to meet with International Rugby Board referee manager Paddy O'Brien yesterday to voice their concerns about what they deemed to be the All Blacks' illegal tactics during their 19-8 win. But Woodcock said: "I just try to do what's best and not worry about what's said. It doesn't bother me at all. "We try to do everything within the laws and do the best we can." The All Blacks' front row will have a new look to it for this weekend's return Test against the Springboks with John Afoa replacing veteran Greg Somerville at tight-head after recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the match against Ireland last month.

Despite only playing club rugby since the victory over Ireland, Afoa believes he is ready to take on a fired up Springboks pack. "It's been a little while since I've played but I have been training hard off the field, doing a lot of running and a lot of extras, so I'm feeling fit and ready to play," he said. While the 24-year-old admitted to being a bit surprised to be given the nod ahead of Somerville, he was not surprised South Africa chose to air their views on the scrum, even though he felt they were off the mark.

"They have their own opinion and if they think something is going wrong they are going to say something," said Afoa. "But we think we are scrumming within the laws and we are just doing out bit. "We've been training hard at our scrum, doing the same thing every week, and I don't think much is going to change from our end." The All Blacks forwards coach Steve Hansen has been glowing in his praise of Afoa's improved scrummaging and the Blues prop said it had been the area he had focused on during this year's Super 14. "I worked through the Super 14 with Kevy (Keven Mealamu) and Woody (Tony Woodcock) working on the small things, and just trying to get that consistency through the year," he said.

"Maybe in the last couple of years I wanted to get the ball in hand but this year it worked the other way. "I didn't care if I didn't touch the ball or make any tackles. It was all about the scrum. Once that started happening I built my game around that." * PA Sport