Tough guy Whitelock comes of age for the All Blacks

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James Mortimer     19 Jun 2013     Getty Images

That might not be hard when you stand beyond two metres, but Sam Whitelock again gave compelling evidence that not only is he now a world class second row forward, but may soon (if he has not already) start challenging for the mantle of being the world’s best.

Whitelock was originally due to sit out due to the fact that the All Blacks coaching team had decided that the Crusaders big man could use another week for his injured digit, but when Retallick was scratched, Hansen rushed his veteran lock into the starting line-up despite the presence of a fit, yet uncapped, Jeremy Thrush.

Hansen said it was natural to replace Retallick with his ‘world class’ lock, and Whitelock, who had perhaps the best game of any lock in Investec Super Rugby when the Crusaders raided the Stormers fortress and lineout, showed not only why he is so highly rated in the air, but again showed the physicality that the All Blacks like to have in the engine room.

Whitelock appears to have taken over the mantle from Brad Thorn as New Zealand rugby’s big boss in the second row.

While dismantling the French lineout at his home ground, Whitelock also revealed to Fairfax Media that he is beginning to think in the tradition of All Blacks locks before him, revealing why he didn’t wear a guard around his fingers for extra protection.

“The finger was fine,” Whitelock said.

“It was test match rugby and if you're thinking about your own body you shouldn't be out there. You should only be out there if you are ready to go. The team comes first, so if you are not right you shouldn't be playing.”

Whitelock was replaced by Thrush towards the end of the second half favouring his left elbow but is not expected to be ruled out for the All Blacks in the Third Test.