Call-up has its reward for Luke Whitelock

Lynn McConnell     14 Nov 2017

However, illness for Liam Squire and then injury to Jerome Kaino had created an opportunity to stay with the All Blacks and he would return home with the unexpected bonus of having led the side in the midweek fixture.

"It's a bit different, but it's exciting and an opportunity for me," he said at his first captain's run in Lyon.

Whitelock, who was fresh from having led Canterbury to yet another Mitre 10 Cup final success, said it had been quite funny playing against the All Blacks last week for the Barbarians and then to be running out as captain 10 days later.

The captaincy was just a title, he said, and the side had processes for the way they did things.

The leadership group of Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Lima Sopoaga especially had experience he could lean on. He was well aware of Sopoaga's capabilities from their time together with the Highlanders in Super Rugby. And it was part of every first five-eighths' role to run the side.

"They see things differently from being out of that set-piece position and they normally have a great understanding of the game and Lima is exceptional at that," he said.

The French set-piece at lineouts and scrums would be important while their ability with the ball and holding onto it for long phases could be expected to be part of their approach.

The All Blacks hadn't had a lot of time together but they were all keen to get out and express themselves in what was a fantastic venue in Lyon, he said.

The game has attracted nearly 60,000 fans and it will not be televised in France. That was because it is being played at 6.55pm French time in order to allow the All Blacks to take a flight to Edinburgh later in the evening to prepare for their Test against Scotland.

However, the French Rugby Federation is expected to pocket nearly two million Euro for staging the game.