Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Whitelock happy to assume responsibility as senior lock

All Black Samuel Whitelock in action. Photo / Richard Robinson
All Black Samuel Whitelock in action. Photo / Richard Robinson

Alphabetical indexing means Sam Whitelock and Ali Williams are paired together in the All Black handbook.

Curiously their weight and height stats match at 2.02m and 116.5kg and while Whitelock has played 40 tests fewer than Williams' 77 internationals, he is now the side's senior lock.

At just 24, Whitelock has the verve of youth and elastic athleticism Williams once had.

There is no room for both of them against Wales this weekend with Whitelock likely to have the power of Luke Romano beside him at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

It won't be the only change in the pack with Andrew Hore shifting into hooker as Keven Mealamu gets over a calf muscle problem he suffered against Italy.

And while there have been some bumpy patches for halfback Aaron Smith in his past two tests against the Wallabies and Italy, the All Blacks' determination to push on with their high-tempo game may keep him in the side.

Whitelock's selection is a given. He has put on 9kg since his test debut but retains the spring and power for his core duties, while scooting around the field.

He is still young for a test lock but thinks he is robust enough now to take on a bigger workload in the All Blacks plans.

"It is great playing that expansive style. It is a style we played at school and I think it suits a lot of the tight forwards' game.

"As long as you are fit and healthy it can go really well and you have to make sure you are ready to go and ready to work hard.

"It is fun to express yourself."

There were locks all round the international rugby world who provided great competition. It was important to gauge yourself and always respect your foes.

"Without that you get into trouble and people, no matter where they are in their career, if they take someone lightly they come unstuck and learn a few lessons that way."

Whitelock received a reminder about the standards he needed to keep reproducing when he was benched for the test against the Pumas in Wellington.

When he was benched, he appreciated the feedback and reasons.

It was the coaches' task to get the most out of the players in their squad and how they achieved that was up to them.

- NZ Herald

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