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'Is Sam an impact player?': Pundits deliver verdict on All Blacks locking duo

By Ned Lester
Sam Whitelock. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

One of the few crinkles that need ironing out in the All Blacks‘ World Cup selection is how best to manage Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett.

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All three players are certain selections in the matchday 23 but three does not fit into two which leaves one of those locks on the All Blacks bench.

Retallick and Whitelock are the world’s most experienced locking partnership but the bruising form of Crusaders captain Scott Barrett threatens to break up that legendary partnership, and after two outings in the No 5 jersey to start 2023, Barrett is proving difficult to demote.

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Whitelock has returned from injury though which makes the upcoming Bledisloe Test a moment of truth for selectors.

Previously, Barrett’s name has been suggested as an option at blindside flanker for the Rugby World Cup and while the middle Barrett brother has looked promising in his few recent showings in the No 6 jersey, Shannon Frizell has done everything in his power to make that position his own two games into The Rugby Championship.

Moving any of the three locks to the bench feels criminal given their status, but something’s got to give.

“I’m a big fan of Sam Whitelock obviously and probably surprised we didn’t see him out there,” James Parsons said on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod. “But tip of the hat to Brodie (Retallick) and Scott Barrett.

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“93% (lineout success) against a Springbok side with that tall pack, and to the throwers of course. Man, you can’t leave Brodie out, his stats, he was 65% in gain-line carries. You need that to win a World Cup so you have to think he’s a lock.

“Barrett’s similar, so between those three and the versatility that Tupou Vaa’i provides, and Josh Lord was pretty effective against Argentina so I can only see set piece getting better because of that competition.”

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Keeping things in context, the Springboks didn’t contest at a number of lineouts which obviously helps that percentage figure, but Barrett and Lord steered the All Blacks to a 90% success rate against Los Pumas the week prior.

It’s a difficult call, but Parsons eventually delivered his verdict on the selection, saying the weekend’s performers have earned their place, for now.

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“Based on the weekend, you’ve got to go with the two. Currently.

“I think (Whitelock) is such a smart brain, a lot of that success will be down to the work he’s done during the week. He would have contributed a hell of a lot even though he didn’t play.

“Against tiring opposition and having his experience and nous off the bench, I do think it’s doable. I think he’s just got to get out there and put some runs on the board because we were singing his praises only a few weeks ago around the Crusaders game and how you can’t see an (All Blacks) team without him in it.

“But that competition, if he gets a couple of big performances against the Wallabies, then it’s a tough job for Jason Ryan and co.”

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Comments

12 Comments
J
Jon 360 days ago

The third, and as I see last, of the selection dilemmas raised about this team. Following 1st5 and Fullback. Perhaps the toughest? With Frizell's performances though, perhaps the least important.

All choices have shown more frailty than confidence recently. Guzz left NZ after 2019/20 (a la Frizell?) and came back a shadow. Whitelock blew his lid against England and otherwise has never been able to dominate a big side since. Barrett even now is prone to brain explosions and making errors when it matters most. So, they aren't going to go down as greats (as SA fans would have had half there side do before last weekend) but they are still bloody good players, good enough win another WC. Has Frizell, with his recently glimpses of finally being able to bring all his strengths together in his 60 mins, joined this group?

IDK, but they're lacking a super subs even if you were confident they had a surefire 6. Barrett is not really that type. Frizell certainly has shown that style for a while, he'd do some great stuff on D then go missing, or be a cog in attack, then not. He was sucking in the big ones after that fast start, but who could blame him. He didn't completely go missing afterwards.

I kinda like SB starting at 6. He is a gutsy 80 minute player, their best forward. I like the strategic advantage of going more mobile at the end of a game, moving him into lock. I like the ability to go tough, replacing both locks. I don't like to think size is a weakness at the top however, Ireland is going to beat you with game plans, and France with flair and movement. The long game with Ioane does not seemed to have worked. Frizlell is also good 8 cover, and Savea good Cane cover, but I actually wonder if one of those latter pair would be better replaced in a Final. Lock cover is also not currently at the super sub level. Lord's performances could well dictate what happens. Being able to have a young Guzzler on the bench would go a long way to forcing Fosters hand. Or would they be reaching to far, can not they play it safe with a veteran lock in Whitelock and an unknown loosie?

With what the other sides are bringing to the party, perhaps not.

J
Jeremy 360 days ago

Scott Barrett has got to be in there. He is at his physical peak and is like the Retallick of old.

T
Tim 360 days ago

I would bring Whitlock off the bench with 20-25 minutes left as he will be fired up, it also enables him to come back from injury with a lighter run.
Scott Barrett will take over Whitelock when he leaves at the end of the RWC, so he will get more starts to prepare him.
Whitelock is a very good scrummager so he could be part of our own bomb squad.

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