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‘It’s a great honour’: Sam Whitelock to match Richie McCaw’s All Blacks record

By Finn Morton
Samuel Whitelock of New Zealand gestures during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Pool A match between France and New Zealand at Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Two-time Rugby World Cup winner Sam Whitelock will equal Richie McCaw’s All Blacks appearance record on Friday night when the second-rower runs out for his 148th Test.

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Whitelock, 34, has been a regular of the New Zealand second row since debuting in black in 2010. The lock has gone on to win two World Cups, and has captained the national team as well.

Just like McCaw, there will never be another play like Sam Whitelock. The Crusader helped define a generation of success both at Super Rugby and Test level.

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But the end is near – the door is about to close on Whitelock’s legendary international career. New Zealand Rugby confirmed in May that 2023 would be Whitelock’s final campaign as an All Black.

Whitelock will leave New Zealand rugby behind and venture on a new challenge after signing a multi-year deal with Top 14 side Pau in France.

But before all of that, it’s important to celebrate the rugby greatness that is Sam Whitelock. The set-piece guru will bring up a record equalling appearance on Friday against Namibia.

“It’s a massive occasion for Sam and for us as a team,” coach Ian Foster told reporters on Wednesday.

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“He’s been sort of a warrior for this team for obviously a long time, and to equal someone like Richie in Test matches for the All Blacks is a massive achievement.

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“We all know how much it means to him to pull on a black jersey, and to do it for the 148th time is a very special occasion.

“We just want to make sure we put a performance on that gives that record a lot of respect and then celebrate with him afterwards.

“Just want to pass on to him and his family, it’s a great honour what he’s achieved.”

There is a special kind of aura that follows Sam Whitelock everywhere he goes. It’s not arrogance or ego, but rather a commitment to hard work, his teammates and rugby union.

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All Blacks are looked to as rugby Gods, but even they need heroes to look up to.

“Something that I really admire and obviously look up to is the way that he goes about his mahi (work),” captain Ardie Savea added.

“Everyone knows he’s a hard worker and he works hard but for me, just seeing him being able to grow and adapt – he’s been here since the likes of Richie (McCaw) and (Kearan) Reado.

“Something that I’ve observed with Sammy is the way he’s able to relate to everyone and try and understand other people and other cultures.

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“That’s something that I really admire about Sammy. For him to be able to do this milestone, I know for him he’ll reflect on it after the game but it’s a huge honour for him and his family.”

Whitelock will start in the No. 5 jersey alongside long-time second-row partner Brodie Retallick. The All Blacks face Namibia in Toulouse at the Rugby World Cup.

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Anthony 278 days ago

Sam Whitelock is a GOAT, he will play in more test than Ritchie another GOAT. He has shown what a legend can achieve and with the respect of many..

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