'I'm not going to say I sulked': Whitelock's frustrations with false start
Sam Whitelock has admitted to harbouring some frustrations at missing out on facing off with the Springboks earlier this month.
Whitelock was originally poised to join the All Blacks in Queensland ahead of their final game of the Rugby Championship after remaining in New Zealand for the formative stages of the competition to await the birth of his third child.
The 33-year-old was due to fly out in the third week of September to spend two weeks in isolation in Australia before linking up with the squad for the second clash with the Springboks.
It was decided at the last minute, however, that because the senior lock hadn’t clocked up any significant game time in the weeks leading up to his departure date, it would be too big a risk to send him over for what promised to be a bruising encounter with the world champions.
The second-rower is now champing at the bit ahead of the All Blacks’ upcoming clash with the USA Eagles, but admitted that he was left somewhat frustrated at the late change of plans – but that there were also some positives to remaining at home with his family.
“It was a little bit frustrating but at the same time, it was actually nice to have a little bit more time at home and do a little bit more training so hopefully that’s going to set me up going through,” he said on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to say I sulked but I had all my bags in the car and I must say, I didn’t take them out for a couple of days. I probably should have but I was just kind of living out of a car when I needed some rugby stuff. It kind of took me about six or seven days to accept I wasn’t going and then move them all back into the house and then unpack and then when I had to repack again a couple of days ago it was kind of opening up a bag and going ‘I’ve got it all sorted’ so instead of it taking an hour to pack it was kind of a ten-minute thing to get done.”
While the All Blacks were always going to leave a handful of players in New Zealand for the initial stages of their epic international tour, they had hoped that those players might be able to clock up some respectable minutes for their provincial sides.
The re-emergence of Covid scuppered those plans, however, which meant Whitelock was only able to notch up one appearance for Canterbury. He was, however, keeping in regular contact with All Blacks trainer Nic Gill to ensure he’d be able to hit the ground running when he did finally link up with the national side.
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“I’m always up for it, can’t wait to get out there,” said Whitelock. “[It was a] little different for me, being at home watching, but Gilly, the trainer, wasn’t slow on sending through ideas and different things he wanted me to do so I feel like I’m in pretty good shape at the moment. Played a game for Canterbury a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m the same as everyone else, I just want to get out there and get into it. It’s been a long time with a couple of false starts, ready to get back with the team but I suppose that’s the cool thing, it just makes it so much more special when you do get here. It was cool seeing the boys walk into the hotel, haven’t seen them for a few weeks and got to connect with a few different stories of what they’ve been up to and the different challenges they’ve had, and looking forward to accepting a few of those challenges going forward.”
Whitelock, alongside the likes of Sam Cane and new lock Josh Lord, arrived in Washington ahead of the main squad and will remain with the team for their final five tests of the year before returning to New Zealand in late November.
Thankfully, the ever-quickening advancement of technology means that long stints overseas aren’t quite as harrowing for players as they were in the past.
“It’s never nice leaving home but they understand what I’m trying to do here with the rugby and they’re really supportive,” Whitelock said.
“It’s great, the day and age at the moment, with Facetime, with cellphones and that. It’s a little bit different to what the team faced a few years ago when it was one letter or one phone call so technology definitely helps.”
The All Blacks will face off with the USA this weekend before heading on to Europe to take on Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.
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