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The rippa rugby team with '400-500 Test matches on the sideline'

By Ned Lester
Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read in action for the All Blacks. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The Crusaders’ succession planning is some of the finest in the business, with their academy program pumping out Super Rugby and international talent every year. Quietly though, a young Canterbury Ripper rugby team is housing some of the world’s top-tier talent, not on the field, but on the sidelines.

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Sam Whitelock is a proud member of the ‘Mighty Pups’ fan club and the 143 cap All Black is not the only international veteran lining up on the sidelines for his son’s sporting endeavours.

Whitlock is joined by Canterbury, Crusaders, and All Blacks teammates with sons of their own in the Ripper rugby team, making for quite a support crew and a great story for any opposing parents who may find themselves on the right side of the scoreline.

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“Fred plays for a team called the Mighty Pups and there’s roughly 400-500 Test matches on the sideline with the fathers,” Whitelock told Stuff’s The Podium. “Israel Dagg, his son plays, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Codie Taylor, Ben Funnell and Jimmy Marr.

“There’s a few Test matches and a few Super Rugby [games] too. At a pure guess, about 1000 Super Rugby games. It’s nice to catch up with those guys. Some are still playing, some have finished. It’s nice we can catch up and get to do something we all bonded over through the years.”

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Whitelock’s rough estimate of international caps between the supporter’s group is pretty spot on, with himself, Dagg, Read, Todd and Taylor combining for 437 Test appearances to date.

As for which of the All Blacks’ genetics have carried through to the next generation, Whitelock is happy to say young Fred takes after his dad.

“If you’re asking if he’s tall and gangly, yes he is,” he smiled.

“Codie Taylor’s son Luka is outstanding. He’s probably the best player by a long way. He’s the MVP, and he’s still pretty young too.”

The 33-year-old lock also hinted at what the future beyond this year’s World Cup might hold, not ruling out a crack at yet another World Cup run in 2027.

“That’s the hard thing for any person that has that competitive future … saying, ‘hey, this is the last one’.

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“That fire and that desire is always there, that competitive edge. It doesn’t matter if it’s playing at the highest level internationally, whether it’s playing cards, whether it’s even [walk] racing someone down the street to pick up your kids.”

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