Veteran All Blacks and Blues loosehead prop Tony Woodcock is set to miss the first four rounds of the Super Rugby season as he attempts to recover from a few niggling injuries.
Woodcock spent a large part of last season on the sidelines with a foot injury but made an encouraging comeback which was capped by a try in the World Cup Final against France.
Blues coach Pat Lam is being understandably cautious about managing Woodcock and confirmed that he will not play until the Round Five fixture against the Hurricanes, which comes after the Blues' South African tour.
"It's about making sure that mentally and physically he's ready to go. After so many years of service in dark places in the front row I think he deserves that," Lam told ONE News.
The 30-year-old Super Rugby centurion will leave a massive gap in the Blues front row that is already short on experience after All Black tighthead John Afoa left to join Irish club Ulster at the end of last season.
However Lam is not too concern about a lack of depth, as he feels that there are plenty of hungry props in the squad that are desperate to make an impression alongside skipper Keven Mealamu.
"I think because we knew that early and Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tevita Mailau have been with us a while and we've got young blood in Angus Ta'avao and Pauliasi Manu. As soon as they got a sniff of an opportunity I've seen the training and the work they've put in, they're all fighting for those places now," he said.
Lam added that it is time for the next generation of front row stars to step up and try and live up to the service given by the All Black trio of Woodcock, Mealamu and Afoa.
"They know it's a dawn of a new era if you like those three guys [Woodcock, Afoa and Keven Mealamu] are our only centurions so it's a chance for these guys to step up.
"For me as a coach and us as a group it's embracing the challenge and the competition can only be won with the whole squad and this is a chance for them to start off," he explained.
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