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'He's got a massive motor': Sam Whitelock heaps praise on All Blacks rookie

By Alex McLeod
(Photo / Getty Images)

While All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock says his side are in a good position heading into their test against Ireland this weekend, one player has caught his eye more than most.

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Speaking to media ahead of New Zealand’s major showdown against the Irish at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday [NZT], Whitelock maintained his side are in good spirits despite having been on the road for almost three months since they left for the Australian leg of the Rugby Championship in August.

Since then, the All Blacks have travelled to five countries in three different continents, won seven of their eight tests and have locked away three trophies, including the Rugby Championship title and the Freedom Cup against their old foes South Africa.

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Over the course of all that action, loose forward Ethan Blackadder has established himself as a workaholic on the field, a test rookie who isn’t afraid to throw himself into the thick of action in a bid to earn his team victory.

His relentless defensive work rate and tireless style of play in his eight test matches to date has been enough to earn him the blindside flanker role for this week’s match against Ireland, and Whitelock isn’t surprised given his performances this year.

“He’s got a massive motor on him. He loves working hard,” Whitelock, who also plays alongside Blackadder at the Crusaders, said on Saturday [NZT] when asked of his teammate’s transition from Super Rugby to the international arena.

“I think he had a bit of a disrupted four or five years, had a couple of injuries at niggly times, and he’s just putting some good games together and just playing the game he’s always probably had, but people are just seeing a bit more and recognising it because he’s not been on the sideline or missing selection.”

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Whitelock also made note of Blackadder’s grounded approach to his rise to stardom as an All Black, an attribute that he said makes the son of ex-New Zealand captain Todd an important teammate and squad member.

“I think he’s been awesome and he’s not too worried about all the fame and hype or anything that comes with it. He just wants to know what his job is and goes out there and does it,” Whitelock said.

“Really great guy to have on the team and he’s got a massive following with us as a team. We always love getting in and around him and find out what he’s been up to and how hard he’s been working, so I’m sure the rest of the world’s seeing that too.”

According to Whitelock, Blackadder’s approach to this year’s unorthodox season of test rugby is reflective of how the All Blacks are coping with their unusual circumstances abroad.

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“The team’s been great. I know, for myself, I came back in after being at home for family reasons, obviously, but I’m feeling great and it’s nice seeing the energy of the boys,” he said.

“We had Aaron Smith come back in a couple of days ago and he’s exactly like we were five weeks ago, energy to burn, and the boys are really jumping on that, but the squad, in general, is in a really good spot.

“We’ve had a couple of really great trainings and we just want to get out there and play.

“I think the management have done a really good job of balancing how much some people play and holding some people back for the right times, and I know that must be a massive balancing act for them, but, in general, the team has some great energy and everyone wants to get out there and get stuck in.”

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mitch 1 hours ago
The Wallabies team Joe Schmidt must pick to win back Bledisloe Cup

Rodda will be a walk up starter at lock. Frost if you analyse his dominance has little impact and he’s a long way from being physical enough, especially when you compare to Rodda and the work he does. He was quite poor at the World Cup in his lack of physicality. Between Rodda and Skelton we would have locks who can dominate the breakdown and in contact. Frost is maybe next but Schmidt might go for a more physical lock who does their core work better like Ryan or LSL. Swain is no chance unless there’s a load of injuries. Pollard hasn’t got the scrum ability yet to be considered. Nasser dominated him when they went toe to toe and really showed him up. Picking Skelton effects who can play 6 and 8. Ideally Valetini would play 6 as that’s his best position and Wilson at 8 but that’s not ideal for lineout success. Cale isn’t physical enough yet in contact and defence but is the best backrow lineout jumper followed by Wright, Hanigan and Swinton so unfortunately Valetini probably will start at 8 with Wright or Hanigan at 6. Wilson on the bench, he’s got too much quality not to be in the squad. Paisami is leading the way at 12 but Hamish Stewart is playing extremely well also and his ball carrying has improved significantly. Beale is also another option based on the weekend. Beale is class but he’s also the best communicator of any Australian backline player and that can’t be underestimated, he’ll be in the mix.

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