All Blacks to be without Sam Whitelock for rest of Rugby Championship
Whitelock is one of three key players, including first-five Richie Mo’unga and halfback Aaron Smith, who haven’t travelled to Australia with the All Blacks, with the trio all remaining in New Zealand to attend the births of their respective children.
After recently welcoming the arrival of his third child, Whitelock was expected to leave New Zealand and arrive in Queensland on Tuesday.
There it was planned he would undergo a two-week quarantine before linking up with the All Blacks squad ahead of their second test against the Springboks, which acts as their final Rugby Championship fixture, on the Gold Coast on October 2.
However, in a statement released on Saturday, the All Blacks revealed that Whitelock won’t fly to Queensland and will therefore miss the remainder of the Rugby Championship.
Despite securing an exemption to quarantine in Queensland yesterday, the All Blacks said Whitelock wouldn’t have had enough time to “safely prepare” for the Springboks test.
The two-week quarantine, which would have started upon Whitelock’s arrival in the Sunshine State, would have left the 32-year-old just four days to ready himself for the clash against the reigning world champions.
Such limited time to prepare for the juggernaut contest would have been made especially tough given the 127-test second rower would have been separated from the squad for almost seven weeks after the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 57-22 at Eden Park last month.
Since then, Whitelock has already spent three weeks in Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 3 lockdowns in New Zealand, which would have been compounded by the additional two-week self-isolation he would have undertaken in Queensland.
With five weeks of quarantine and seven weeks of no game time, the All Blacks have decided to keep Whitelock in New Zealand until after the Rugby Championship, when he will rejoin the squad for the end-of-year tour to the United States and Europe.
Given his vast experience, leadership qualities and on-field abilities, Whitelock will leave a significant hole in the All Blacks forward pack.
However, the side will be boosted by the arrival of Mo’unga, who has been confirmed to travel to and quarantine in Queensland and will be available for selection for the second Springboks test.
This comes in spite of the fact that the mercurial playmaker also has not played since the second Wallabies test on August 14 and has endured the same lockdown restrictions in New Zealand as Whitelock.
No update has yet been provided on the availability status of Smith, who, again, has not played for the All Blacks since the second Bledisloe Cup clash and has undergone the same lockdown restrictions as both Mo’unga and Whitelock.
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