Another All Black has joined the growing exodus of players set to leave New Zealand at the end of this year’s World Cup in Japan.
This time, it is loose forward Luke Whitelock who has committed his services to a foreign club, with the 28-year-old signing a three-year deal with Top 14 side Pau.
Whitelock has been a fringe international since making his debut for the All Blacks against Japan in 2013, and after having to wait four years between his first and second test cap, was named captain in a non-test against a French XV in Lyon in 2017, and then again against Japan last year.
He has since gone on to feature in seven test matches, linking up with older brother Sam in all but two of them.
Whitelock has also made a significant impact at domestic levels of the game.
Pau’s capture of Whitelock’s signature adds to the club’s strong Kiwi presence, as the squad already features seven New Zealanders – Jamie Mackintosh, Daniel Ramsey, Peter Saili, Colin Slade, Benson Stanley, Frank Halai and Tom Taylor – and is coached by former All Blacks first-five Simon Mannix.
The Top 14 side’s latest addition will be a big blow for both the All Blacks and the Highlanders.
With All Blacks skipper Kieran Read departing to Japanese Top League side Toyota Verblitz next year, a space will be opening up for a newcomer to permanently take over the No. 8 role within the national side.
However, it appears Ioane will now be favourite to claim the No. 8 jersey from 2020 onwards with neither Read nor Whitelock standing in his way.
As for the Highlanders, they have already lost a vast amount of international experience next year, with Whitelock joining Ben Smith (Pau), Waisake Naholo (London Irish), Liam Squire (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) and Jackson Hemopo (Mitsubishi Dynaboars) as departing test stars out of Dunedin.
It isn’t just the Highlanders who are being affected by this post-World Cup exodus, with Owen Franks (Northampton), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Toulon), Jordan Taufua (Leicester Tigers), Matt Proctor (Northampton) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (Wasps) all set to leave later this year.
Pau are currently struggling in the Top 14, languishing in 11th place with just seven wins from 18 outings.
They next play away at second-placed Clermont this weekend.
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