Tony Woodcock - a career out of the limelight

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Lynn McConnell     11 Oct 2015     Getty Images

It doesn't seem right that a player who spends much of his playing time confined to the sort of exertion, hard work and utterly necessary contribution to his side should be let down by his body.

Hamstrings are something that flashy backs tend to suffer while forwards of Woodcock's type tend to just wind down.

Perhaps it is the type of rugby that is played nowadays where the skills and demands cover a wider repertoire for all members of the side.

Whatever the reason, it is unfortunate that Woodcock's exit from the international stage he has made such a significant contribution to should be limping from St James' Park and into the rugby sunset.

It was similar when he announced, in association with his long-time front row partner Keven Mealamu, that he was ending his Super Rugby career at the end of the last series. Injury denied him the player's opportunity to walk from the ground to the appreciation of his home Blues crowd.

That probably wasn't too much of a concern to Woodcock. He has never been one to enjoy the limelight. Every press conference seemed like it was an agony to be endured, especially when the personnel were not so well known to him.

That's not unusual among the propping fraternity. Their measure of a job well done is not counted in line-breaks or off-loads. It many ways the best assessment is done by their opponents, those on the receiving end of the pushing, shoving and sheer hard graft.

And in a career that began at Cardiff against Wales in 2002 as a 21-year-old there have been plenty of opponents who have endured the full Woodcock experience.

A total of 118 Tests is a measure of the quality he brought to the side.

Individually, he will be most etched into the New Zealand psyche as the man who scored the only try for his side in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park, the result of some subtle lineout work that saw a parting of the rugby Red Sea before Woodcock, ball cradled safely from interfering arms thrown out by defenders in despair, came trundling through for what proved a vital try.

There was a rare show of delight, probably more based on a move well executed than any individual skill involved.

But is something that has seen him score 10 tries in his career, a not insignificant fact in the final analysis.

There were 15 defeats with the All Blacks, not many by most international standards. But there were many memorable results – a share of the great undefeated season of 2013 and that marvellous match at Ellis Park, of the 2005 series win over the British and Irish Lions, the demolition of France in Paris in 2004 and many other games of personal satisfaction.

He has been a core part of an All Blacks scrum that has rarely been conquered and a senior contributor to the on-field strategic core that every skipper relies on.

Tony Woodcock can be assured that he leaves the game with an outstanding legacy for which those wearers of the jersey in the future, whatever material it is made of and whatever shape the game takes, should always be appreciative.