'That's what stuck out first': Retallick's first impression of new team mate
Tuipulotu and Barrett were joined by Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i for the competition in Australia, with Sam Whitelock spending the majority of the competition back home awaiting the birth of his third child.
Although the pair had had to head back to NZ, the All Blacks have been able to remain well-stocked at lock, calling Whitelock back into the squad and also summoning 21-year-old sensation Josh Lord.
Lord’s elevation comes ahead of the likes of Quinten Strange, Pari Pari Parkinson and the injured Mitch Dunshea, with the Taranaki and Chiefs representative earning his debut off the bench against the United States last weekend.
Vaa’i, meanwhile, had precious little game time in Australia but is set to play a big role in the All Blacks’ remaining four games for the year as the third choice second-rower behind Whitelock and Retallick, and started alongside Whitelock in the 104-14 win over the US.
All in all, the current depth will leave NZ in excellent stead next year when Ian Foster and his fellow selectors have to likely cull the group down to just four players.
Retallick, who didn’t feature for the All Blacks in 2020 due to a sabbatical in Japan, believes the heavy competition will bring out the best in the four players who are currently with the team in Cardiff for this weekend’s match with Wales.
“I thought Tupou went great against the States and showed how athletic and good his footwork is, and great work rate,” Retallick said on Tuesday. “And then obviously for Josh to get his debut and his first week in the environment, I’m sure it was a lot to come at him and then to get out there and get [his debut] is awesome.
“It’s great that those boys get their opportunity and I thought Scooter [Barrett] was playing outstanding before he went home and now obviously Sam’s back so it’s great to have plenty of competition not only within the locks but also the team [as a whole].”
While the focus is naturally on the upcoming matches with Wales, Italy, Ireland and France, Retallick will also rest easy knowing that he’ll be well supported at the Chiefs next year with both Vaa’i and Lord on the books for the 2022 season, with the likes of Mitch Brown and Naitoa Ah Kuoi also competent exponents in the second row.
In 2005, Taranaki lock Jason Eaton was called into the All Blacks despite having zero Super Rugby experience to his name. Josh Lord is now in a similar – but also very different – boat. #AllBlacks #USAvNZL
?? Gregor Paulhttps://t.co/ywx6kpfEWt
— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) October 25, 2021
While Retallick is still very much getting to know Vaa’i, he at least had the chance to spend the Rugby Championship training alongside the 21-year-old. Lord, on the other hand, only joined the squad last week, which means there will be plenty of getting to know each other over the coming month, which Retallick is relishing.
“Obviously, he’s a teammate here and he’s going to be a teammate at the Chiefs so it’s good to get to know him and find out a little bit about him but the first thing is realising how tall he is; I think he’s taller than me. It’s probably the first person since Dom Bird that I’ve had to look up to in terms of heights so that’s what stuck out first.”
The All Blacks’ official website lists Retallick at 2.04 metres, a centimetre taller than Lord, but you wouldn’t argue with the former World Rugby Player of the Year.
Bird, who last played for the All Blacks in 2017, measures in at 2.06 metres and is set to play for the Hurricanes next season but sent three years with the Chiefs earlier in his career.
Retallick and Whitelock will likely partner up in the second row against Wales this weekend with Vaa’i coming off the bench while 21-year-old Lord’s next chance will probably come against Italy in another week’s time.
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