The British & Irish Lions have sent out a strong message of intent by naming a powerful side to take on Bay of Plenty in their opening tour match at the weekend.
The team will be captained by Brian O'Driscoll and includes a number of favourites for Test selection.
"There is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation now our first game in New Zealand is so close," said Woodward.
"Because it's the first game, Bay of Plenty will want to give us a very tough match and we have selected a very strong side who will give us a good start to the tour."
Woodward has named key combinations, with Lawrence Dallaglio, Martyn Williams and Richard Hill starting in an experienced back row and Paul O'Connell locking an impressive Lions scrum with Ben Kay.
O'Driscoll will be partnered in the centres by Gavin Henson, the Welshman who returns from a groin injury to make his Lions debut.
Henson's Wales team-mate Dwayne Peel, considered favourite for the Test scrum-half berth, takes the number nine jersey while Ireland's Ronan O'Gara, a veteran of the 2001 Lions tour, starts at fly-half.
England's Josh Lewsey has been named at full-back while Tom Shanklin and Mark Cueto, who only joined the squad after Iain Balshaw withdrew injured from the tour, start on the wings.
"I was thrilled to hear I was selected," said Cueto. "Just over a week ago I didn't think I'd be here at all.
"To be in the team for the first match of the Tour is fantastic. I can't wait to get out there."
O'Driscoll is also raring to go after being rested for the Lions' send-off against Argentina because Woodward felt it was important that the tour captain leads the side out in Rotorua this Saturday.
"After all the waiting and the preparation it will be great to get out there and play the first match in New Zealand," said O'Driscoll.
"This is a strong side and we can't wait to get out in front of the New Zealand public and show what we can do on the rugby field."
The Lions expect a fierce collision with Bay of Plenty and hope it will lay ideal foundations for a Test series win over the All Blacks.
Four years ago the Lions racked up 199 points as they opened their tour of Australia with comfortable victories over Western Australia and a Queensland President's XV but ended up losing the 2001 Test series to the Wallabies.
This time round, coach Eddie O'Sullivan is convinced a tough start against Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and a Test-standard New Zealand Maori XV will be the ideal preparation for beating the All Blacks.
"Every game we play here in New Zealand we will be tested," O'Sullivan said.
"That makes a Lions tour unique and if we don't go into every game with that mentality we will get turned over. That starts in Rotorua where Bay of Plenty will try and throw the kitchen sink at us.
"We have got to get our heads around that very quickly. That will make us a better team. We will get to the Test side knowing all the players have been put through the mill and we know what we are picking from.
"It gives you the best opportunity to pick your strongest side to win the series. That is why we are playing all these tough games."
British & Irish Lions team to play Bay of Plenty in Rotorua on June 4 is: J Lewsey (Wasps and England); M Cueto (Sale and England), B O'Driscoll (Leinster and Ireland, capt), G Henson (Neath Swansea Ospreys and Wales), T Shanklin (Cardiff and Wales); R O'Gara (Munster and Ireland), D Peel (Llanelli and Wales); G Jenkins (Cardiff and Wales), G Bulloch (Glasgow and Scotland), M Stevens (Bath and England), P O'Connell (Munster and Ireland), B Kay (Leicester and England), R Hill (Saracens and England), M Williams (Cardiff and Wales), L Dallaglio (Wasps and England).
Replacements: S Thompson (Northampton and England), A Sheridan (Sale and England), M O'Kelly (Leinster and Ireland), M Corry (Leicester and England), M Dawson (Wasps and England), C Hodgson (Sale and England), G D'Arcy (Leinster and Ireland)
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.
Supporters who are still to purchase tickets for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm) are reminded that Early Bird prices are only valid until 6:30pm on Thursday evening.