Joe Moody (Getty Images)
Londo – All Blacks prop Joe Moody may be a Test match baby but South Africa would do well to think twice about giving the former champion wrestler a hard time.
The 27-year-old, who will start in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final showdown, is happy to pull out a few of his old moves when the going gets tough, but says he does curb himself to avoid trouble with match officials.
Moody was rushed from New Zealand to England to join the squad last week when Tony Woodcock was injured. He now finds himself the senior specialist loosehead prop in the squad with Wyatt Crockett sidelined by a groin strain.
The semi-final against South Africa at Twickenham will be only his 10th Test and six of those have been as a replacement.
“I’m chuffed. I’ve got to make the most of every opportunity I get,” Moody said of his selection after missing the initial World Cup squad because coach Steve Hansen did not believe he was fit enough.
He has intensified his training and it paid off as the front row injuries began to hit the All Blacks.
Now he faces South Africa with its feared forward pack and his 14 years as a grappler, in which he won New Zealand and Oceania titles, and a bronze medal at the junior Commonwealth Games, could come in handy.
“When I was wrestling I was in the under 96kg weight class, I wouldn’t go anywhere near that now. I’ve definitely got a lot bigger,” said Moody who is listed at 112kg on the All Blacks website.
“As far as helping out with rugby, I can use a little bit of it at the clean outs and breakdown, but not too much otherwise I’d probably be on the side line.”
Moody stopped wrestling to focus on rugby as a 21-year-old, quickly advancing from the backrow to the frontrow.
But, like his wrestling, his backrow skills have not deserted him as evidenced by the classy back-of-the-hand offload for Tawera Kerr-Barlow to score his second try in the quarter final win over France.
Moody’s elevation to start in the semi-final is the only change to the New Zealand team that beat France 62-13 last weekend.