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Sportal.co.nz     26 Aug 2011     Getty Images

Acknowledged by coach Graham Henry as the forward of the Test in South Africa last weekend for New Zealand, he has suggested he is ready to step up to the role of starting lock, something that has seen Ali Williams dominate this year.

But Williams has a slight knee injury and the team management were keen for him to take a role from the bench this week.

Whitelock would take inspiration from playing alongside his Crusaders' team-mate Brad Thorn and also learn from his example of preparing properly and not getting too hyped up during the lead-up to the game.

He felt it was probably his most important Test match so far, the Tri Nations title was on the line and it was being played in Australia which was always a tough contest.

"We got into a few scrums yesterday [Wednesday] and we talked about what we needed to do and what we didn't do right. We feel like we've improved as a scrum and as individuals [as a result of that session]," he said.

Whitelock doesn't have the advantage of Thorn's build for scrummaging, but nevertheless he enjoys the physical contest to try and get on top in that area. It was an exciting prospect and he described it as 'a cool little battle within the game'.

Since coming into the All Blacks' environment his game had benefited in all areas, and scrummaging was part of that.

"No doubt it [scrummaging] has improved but I want to keep on improving and making it one of my strengths," he said.

The Australians had beefed up their lineout with the recall of Dan Vickerman and that put the onus on the New Zealanders not to allow them the time which can be vital in determining lineout success.

"They're good enough, and skilful enough, to take that and really hurt us," he said.

"On their ball they've got some really good options, they're athletic guys and I think that makes it harder for us to defend but we've been working on our systems and trying to reinforce them over the week and it seems to be working quite well so if all goes well we should pressure on their ball and no doubt they'll be trying to do the same on ours," he said.