Returning All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick believes there will be a seamless transition into the captaincy role for fellow veteran lock Sam Whitelock for the upcoming July test window.
Whitelock has been named captain of the side in place of injured openside flanker Sam Cane, who was ruled out of action for four to six months in April due to a torn pectoral muscle. While that timeline could see Cane return for the All Blacks' Rugby Championship campaign, Whitelock will lead the squad in the interim.
It won't be the first time Whitelock has deputised in the role, having captained the national side six times, and Retallick said he had plenty of qualities that make him well suited to it.
"Sam Whitelock is experienced with his time captaining the Crusaders," Retallick said when asked if the would be much of a difference in the captaincy styles of Cane and Whitelock.
"He's a very deep thinker and he leaves no stone unturned; he'll make sure everything is done correctly and to a high standard, and he's a great people person.
"I guess they're both pretty similar to be fair; similar personalities, so I don't think it would be too much of a difference for the boys here."
With 122 caps to his name, Whitelock is the most experienced player in the All Blacks' 36-man squad for the upcoming July tests against Fiji and Tonga, ahead of Aaron Smith (97), Beauden Barrett (88), and Retallick (81). Like Retallick, Barrett returns to the All Blacks without having played any rugby in New Zealand for the past year after spending time in Japan on sabbatical.
For the 30-year-old, the time in Japan allowed him time to refresh as part of a grand plan to be fit and firing for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
The rest of the squad for the upcoming series, in comparison, has a relatively fresh look to it, with 18 players in the squad having appeared in 10 tests or fewer in the black jersey.
Retallick, who provides a welcome boost to the country's available locking stocks, said while he had not had much contact with the All Blacks coaches and management team during his time in Japan, he had been hopeful of hearing his name called out as part of the squad for the upcoming test window.
"I was hoping for it," he admitted. "That was the selectors' and the coaches' decision. Obviously, I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
"I'm ready if I'm picked. Whether I will be or not, that's not my decision, but I'm ready to start getting back into it."