Whitelock keen to avoid grandfather's footsteps

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 20:09

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Samuel Whitelock has no desire for family history to repeat itself when he captains world champions New Zealand against Wales on Saturday.

The Crusaders lock will be skippering the All Blacks for the first time in place of the injured Kieran Read in Cardiff. The team he leads will contain brother Luke at No.8. 

New Zealand are seeking a 30th successive victory over Wales, with their last defeat in the fixture - a 8-13 loss in Cardiff way back in 1953 - coming with the Whitelock brothers' grandfather, George Nelson Dalzell, playing for New Zealand.

"It is something that Luke and I are probably aware of more than anyone else," Sam told reporters at the Millennium Stadium on Friday. "It would be nice not to do that."

The All Blacks may be without several first-choice players including Read, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles.

Yet despite being pushed close before beating Scotland 22-17 at Murrayfield last week, New Zealand are favourites to extend their winning streak over Wales, 

"We always want to play well every week and this week is no different," Whitelock said. "We are excited to get out there now, and let our actions do the talking.

As for captaining New Zealand, the new skipper said: "It's massive in my playing career, but the beauty is there are so many guys in the team who have done it before. It is never up to one person to lead."

Saturday's match is bringing the Whitelock family together.

"Myself and Luke played a lot of age-group rugby together, and a bit together at the Crusaders," said Sam. "To do it in a Test match is going to be unreal.

"My parents are going to be in the stand, and they will be quite emotional."

While the All Blacks seek to avoid a repeat of 1953, Wales, whose coach Warren Gatland and several players were involved in the British and Irish Lions 1-1 series draw in New Zealand this year, have tapped into more recent history as they bid to turn the tide.

While it is indeed 64 years since Wales last beat New Zealand, Welsh clubs have enjoyed success against them in the intervening decades, including Llanelli who beat the All Blacks 9-3 in 1972.

Delme Thomas, Llanelli's captain that day, was also a member of the victorious Lions side in New Zealand the previous year.

This week Thomas, a lock who won 25 Wales caps, has been passing on his experience to forwards in the current squad.    

"We benefited from having Delme Thomas come to the hotel last [Thursday] night, and he spoke with us as a front-five," said Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde. 

"They were wise words, and it was good to hear him.

"As captain of a successful Llanelli team and having played on a successful Lions tour, it was just to share some of those experiences. Obviously, the psychological thing is a big thing."

Agence France-Presse