A test against Namibia which is extra special for three All Blacks – Jordie Barrett, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock – will be most significant for reuniting arguably the best locking combination in the world.

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If the partnership of Retallick, back from a dislocated shoulder suffered 10 weeks ago, and Whitelock, who is leading the All Blacks in a World Cup test for the first time, remains intact, the All Blacks' chances of lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy for the third consecutive time will be considerably enhanced. The band, which has entertained crowds for more than 50 tests, is back together at last.

Skipper Whitelock said: "You know how each other plays … having the combination that we've built up over the years is nice to have, especially when the pressure's on; Brodie's back from injury, it's a short turnaround and we're at a World Cup."

All Blacks locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Jordie Barrett's move to first-five in the absence of Richie Mo'unga and brother Beauden is a special selection for him and his family, but all going well for the All Blacks it won't be repeated here in Japan.

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The 22-year-old will be expected to calmly lead the team around the Tokyo Stadium pitch tomorrow and to be flexible enough to play what's in front of him while following what should be a fundamental game plan coming as this test does four days after the big win over Canada in Oita.

"You just have to back him to be able to lead the team," Whitelock said. "He's a pretty awesome footballer - he can play in many different positions. He's pretty clued up on how he wants this team to play. If anything you just have to give him confidence to go out there and take the lead on it.

"Jordie is really developing as a rugby player."

The question of how Retallick's strapped-up left shoulder stands the strain after it was popped from its socket by Springbok RG Snyman in Wellington in late July is probably less certain, but the first contact should set the 28-year-old's mind at ease.

"I'm pretty nervous," Retallick admitted. "Obviously it's been a long stint and before that I only had a couple of games at the end of Super Rugby [due to wrist injury]. The trainings that we're doing here are pretty game-like most of the time, but there's still a bit of nervousness.

"It's the reaction time. Things happen so much quicker at test level. You have to make decisions quicker and everyone is a little bit stronger so getting your body height right… obviously you want to get to a point where you're deciding and doing rather than thinking about what's happening and then reacting to it."

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick passing to Sevu Reece during their training session in Tokyo, Japan. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick passing to Sevu Reece during their training session in Tokyo, Japan. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Retallick, a former World Rugby player of the year who has played 77 tests, is likely to make way for Patrick Tuipulotu after 30 or 40 minutes in preparation for a longer stint against Italy in Toyota City next Saturday.

His return is eagerly anticipated by the All Blacks and wider rugby public. Retallick's value is in his relentless physicality combined with the vision and handling skills of a back, while Whitelock, a 30-year-old who has played 113 tests, has a workrate that few others in the world can match. Together they are out on their own in terms of their mobility which will be a key asset in the knockout stage should the humid conditions remain.

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Whitelock's leadership, honed at the Crusaders during their run to their recent three titles, is another top card in Steve Hansen's well-stacked hand.

"It's never just about the individual," Whitelock said. "There's a great crew out there; Brodie is a prime example and he'll lead in his own way.

"He's been a little bit annoying over the last couple of weeks. It's good to know he's back where he wants to be."