Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Kieran and Sam - all we need

In time, the significance of locking Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock into four-year deals will be fully appreciated.

The New Zealand Rugby Union made the mistake of announcing the news two days after Sonny Bill Williams had rejected its overtures, and it made the whole business seem like a consolation prize.

But for all that it would be useful to have Williams, he wouldn't be integral to the All Blacks' hopes of retaining the World Cup.

However, if the All Blacks had lost Read or Whitelock they could just about forget winning in 2015.

These two are the new Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter - the two men around whom the All Blacks are building their team.

It won't take long for people to realise that the biggest source of concern now is not McCaw being injured, but Read being unavailable.

Read is the the beating heart, the irresistible force who takes the contest into the breach.

There isn't a better No 8 on the planet. There probably isn't a better rugby player, for that matter, and Read is integral to not only the current All Black regime, but the next.

He is the captain-elect and his anointment will be seamless when it comes. What's particularly admirable and indeed important about Read is that, like McCaw, he hasn't surrendered fully to the modern ways. Too much of him is submerged in old-school values.

White boots will never make their way into his kit bag, a short back and sides will forever be the haircut of the day and no one will beat him off the bus onto the training ground.

It's imperative that today's All Blacks retain a link to the All Blacks of yesterday and McCaw and Read are that bridge.

In time, it will be just Read, although Whitelock's not much different in that he too will never be convinced that style has even a fighting chance against substance.

At just 25 and with nearly 50 caps, Whitelock may eclipse anything achieved by any previous All Black lock. After spending his formative years as an All Black in the company of Brad Thorn and Ali Williams, Whitelock has intriguingly morphed into a hybrid of the two.

He has the punch and presence of Thorn, but also shows the athleticism, mobility and aerial skills of Williams.

No one feels that the All Blacks lack a hard edge. The Boks pushed and shoved a bit and didn't gain an inch in Auckland or Johannesburg.

Such is the nature of Read and Whitelock that they wouldn't have minded that the palaver over Williams stole their show a bit.

Neither is inclined to talk about himself or to be cast as anything other than one of the team - which is why no one should worry about what New Zealand rugby didn't get last week.

- NZ Herald

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