Seven years ago Joe Moody, not long out of Christ’s College, approached an All Blacks coach at a squash court and asked him if his rugby future would be at No.8 or in the front row.
The coach wisely told him that whatever decision he made he needed to work extremely hard to be fully successful. Moody had played a couple of games for the Lincoln club side in the Canterbury country competition at No.8 and was not sure of his future.
The expert advice was bang on. He returned to the front row, worked hard and advanced through the ranks to play eight games for the All Blacks last year and he ends 2015 as the No.1 prop. For the former Oceania senior wrestling champion, then aged 18, it has been a meteoric rise – at last – after being a bit itchy-footed and injury-strung early in his career.
Moody will be a key part of the 2016 All Blacks team which will look nothing like that side that plays in the Rugby World Cup final against Australia at Twickenham this weekend: no Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tony Woodcock, Colin Slade, Kevin Mealamu – and maybe more.
But the All Blacks’ succession planning is in good shape. There is a strong core of younger players who will quickly become more senior players next year – Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Joe Moody, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Waisake Naholo.