All Black and Blues prop Tony Woodcock will make his long awaited return to the rugby field tonight, playing for the Blues Development team in their final match of the Pacific Rugby Cup against the Fiji Warriors at Bell Park, Pakuranga.
The 83 Test veteran has not played since the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, when he scored the only try of the match.
Development Coach Jeff Wilson said Woodcock was eager to get on the field.
“You can tell by his attitude that he can’t wait to get out there and get some game time. It’s also a great opportunity for the younger guys to play with someone of his experience,” said Wilson.
Woodcock is set to join the Blues when they return from South Africa next week.
The Blues Development line up has a number of changes to the team that beat Tonga A, 40-3 last Friday night.
Midfielder Francis Saili has been called up to join the Blues in South Africa alongside fellow Wider Training Group players Ben Lam and Hadleigh Parkes, leaving the Development team light on backs.
Wilson said he was extremely grateful to have experienced players Jack McPhee and Aaron Bancroft join the squad for tonight’s match.
“It’s great that we have guys like this in our franchise that we can call up to play. They have been involved in the programme in the past so they have an understanding of our systems and the experience to slot in.”
McPhee takes the fullback jersey, moving James Semple into his regular position of first five-eighths.
In the forward pack, Steven Luatua moves to blindside flanker and Nathan Hughes gets a start at lock. †Wilson said moving Luatua to flanker would add extra height to the pack and give him a new challenge.
The Fiji Warriors are the strongest of the touring teams in the Pacific Rugby Cup and recorded a win against the Crusader Knights last weekend.
Blues Development v Fiji Warriors
Pacific Rugby Cup
Tuesday 13 March 2012, kick-off 7pm
Bell Park, Pakuranga United Rugby Club
The team is:
1. Tony Woodcock
2. James Parsons (captain)
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
4. Liaki Moli
5. Nathan Hughes
6. Steven Luatua
7. Sean Polwart
8. Cam Goodhue
9. Wayne Ngaluafe
10. James Semple
11. Nafi Tuitavake
12. Corey Aporo
13. Malakai Fekitoa
14. Junior Tofa Va’a
15. Jack McPhee
16. Manu Leiataua
17. Matt Wallace
18. Irwin Finau
19. Daniel Pryor
20. Bryn Hall
21. Michigan Lam
22. Aaron Bancroft