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All Blacks aim to stay one step ahead

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Sportal.co.nz     15 Jun 2013     Getty Images

But while not knowing the French side, which was named on Thursday night, he said they would still be a handful.

The game is New Zealand's 500th Test match, and the 200th since rugby turned professional in 1995, and Woodcock felt that while New Zealand still had its nose in front as a trendsetter in the world game, the rest of the world was catching up.

"We just keep trying to push ahead and think up new ideas. I think the coaching staff and management are really good at driving new ideas and trying to get better," he said.

And he felt the latest variation on the game plan, still being developed by the side, was exciting.

"We're only one game in so it is hard to tell but the guys are enjoying it," he said.

Woodcock missed the first Test after being in hospital for two days with a nasal abscess, said the infection had got a little out of hand and needed to be treated with IV antibiotics to get it under control.

He said over a 10-year period it wasn't too bad to have only those niggly complaints to show for it all.

Woodcock said he was probably underdone so to come off the bench was probably the smartest move on Saturday.

The Highlanders season had not been a good one and he took some of that on his own shoulders and he felt two or three games were what he needed to get his match hardness back.

Meanwhile, starting tighthead prop Owen Franks said it had been a good battle with the French scrum in Auckland.

"It was a bit messy like everyone has been complaining about but as Kevey [Mealamu] said it gets like that when two teams are trying to get on top."

Franks said it would be good if the scrum was controlled in similar fashion in the second Test under Alain Rolland as they had been by Wayne Barnes in the first.

"I thought Barnes dealt with the scrums well, the way he talked to the players," he said.

Hopefully there would be fewer penalties or free kicks from scrums in the second test, he said. It would be nice not to leave it in the referee's hands.

"I guess only we can take care of that, and France," he said.

"The French are different [to other sides]. They like to keep the ball in a lot and as everyone knows they take a heap of pride in their scrummaging. It's a big thing for them, whereas other teams you play it is just a way for backs to get the ball but for them it is kind of everything.

"It raises the intensity and the fight [for control] a lot more," he said.

While his profile as a defender had diminished compared to his earlier Tests on the scene, Franks said there had been no change. He loved tackling and smashing into opposition players but it was a case of first things first and concentrating on actually making the tackles.

"I think maybe people have seen the way I tackle in the past and line me up and run straight at me from 10m away. I would love for that to happen, but it doesn't happen as much.

"The main job for me is to make the tackle first and anything else I get is awesome," he said.

Franks expected the breakdown would be handled better this week with greater clarity around individual roles in the side.

"We've got to do our job better and stay on our feet longer and maybe run a bit harder.

"The French have got really good loose forwards and they get on the ball quick. The ball carrier [needs to be] conscious of staying up on the feet a bit longer and the cleaners got to get there," he said.