Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Novice Retallick thriving under increased workload

All Black lock Brodie Retallick has a busy two weeks coming up. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Black lock Brodie Retallick has a busy two weeks coming up. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Brodie Retallick has the appearance of a bouncer from the north of England and at times all the subtlety of one.

If ever those destructive qualities were needed for the All Blacks it will be over the next two weeks against the Pumas and Springboks.

While Luke Romano's groin injury has added hugely to the 22-year-old's workload, the consistent game time is agreeing with him. It's no exaggeration to suggest he is coming into the form of his life - certainly he appeared to come of age in the rough and tumble of his side's most recent test, the often ill-tempered victory over South Africa at Eden Park.

The last we saw of Romano on the field was when he departed Sydney's ANZ Stadium with a groin strain early in the comprehensive victory over the Wallabies on August 17. Retallick replaced him in the second row and hasn't looked back - playing in every minute of the subsequent Rugby Championship wins over Australia in Wellington, Argentina in Hamilton and South Africa in Auckland.

He has always been known as one of the best clean-out operators in the New Zealand game - he has a fearless quality which belies his age but is boosted by his 2.04m and 115kg frame - now he is turning into one of the best lineout operators and a general enforcer, too.

Retallick is closing the gap on Sam Whitelock as New Zealand's best lock. He doesn't have the footwork or handling skills of Whitelock, but he makes up for it with his considerable bulk, aggression and workrate. He was more consistent than Whitelock against the Boks and those qualities will be key for the All Blacks as they look to maintain their unbeaten record in the Championship against the Pumas at La Plata on Sunday and in what will be a grudge match at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, a week later.

"You still have to work hard for your spot each week, but it's nice to get a couple of 80-minute performances under your belt," Retallick said, when asked about getting guaranteed game time in Romano's absence.

"The last couple of weeks getting 80 minutes has built my confidence."

Retallick is one of Steve Hansen's big successes after the All Blacks coach selected him last year - which also happened to be the lock's first in Super Rugby. He has quickly become an integral part of not only the Chiefs but also the national side, playing 18 tests after making his debut against Ireland at Eden Park. In a bid to beef up his second row, Pumas coach Santiago Phelan has brought in Patricio Albacete, a 53-test veteran who plays for French club Toulouse, in one of six changes.

Retallick, who undergoes something of a transformation when wearing spectacles off the field, professes to enjoy the books about another famously short-sighted individual - Harry Potter - and will do his homework on Albacete and his other opponents. But while workrate and effort are increasingly being measured by statistics, Retallick prefers to take an old-fashioned approach - measuring how hard he has worked by how he feels afterwards. There is no secret formula.

"It's something I build my game on, getting around the paddock and working as hard as I can."

Argentina

Juan Martin Hernandez, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo, Juan Manual Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Patricio Albacete, Julio Farias Cabello, Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu, Marcos Ayerza. Reserves: Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Mariano Galarzo, Benjamin Macome, Tomas Cubelli, Felipe Contepomi, Horacio Agulla.

- NZ Herald

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