Last week it was announced by CEO of New Zealand Rugby, Steve Tew that world class lock, Sam Whitelock had re-committed to New Zealand and the Crusaders by signing a new four year deal. Such a contract would see the player through to the next Rugby World Cup. On face value this is a pretty big coup for the Kiwis as a player of this calibre could have signed with any club he wanted to, however there is more reason for excitement. His contract does permit a short stint in Japan’s top league, meaning he will miss the 2020 Super Rugby season, however he will return home in time to represent the All Blacks in their June Test Series.
Whilst the signing of Whitelock is huge in the sense of squad retention post World Cup, could this be a sign that he will lead the All Blacks going forward? With Kieran Read having announced he will be leaving New Zealand, there are some big shoes to fill as the role of captain for the world’s number one team becomes available, and who better to give it a crack than the big man himself.
Whitelock currently boasts 108 test caps after making his debut in 2010 (v Ireland) and comes in at a height of 2.02m and 116kg. Well known for his mobility and prowess in the lineouts, he is also a big ball carrier and has the weight and size to make a difference on the gain line.
By the time the 2020 international season rolls around, he could well have reached 120 test caps and should injuries not hamper him going forward, could become one of the most capped players of all time. Whitelock has also previously captained the All Blacks as he became the 69th Captain of the team when he led them to a 33-18 victory over Wales in 2017, this in addition to him having successfully captained the Crusaders on numerous occasions in conjunction with Kieran Read.
With a new coach set to take the reins in 2020 and a number of players either retiring or moving to clubs overseas, it would be a smart bet to say Whitelock will take the All Blacks through to the next World Cup in France 2023. The All Blacks are one of the few teams who truly achieve continuity from the coach to captain and all players in between and this should be no different.
Other contenders for the role of captain would include Sam Cane (pending recovery from his neck injury), Beauden Barrett and possibly one of the younger forwards such as Matt Todd, however all of these options seem far less likely.
We may have to wait a while for an official announcement in this regard but should it be so, Whitelock will be continuing a trend of All Blacks Captains coming from the Crusaders as both of Kieran Read and Richie McCaw plied their trade in the red and black of the Christchurch based team.
Written by: Nicholas Halsey
Image credit: FoxSports