The most-capped lock in All Blacks history, Sam Whitelock, is rumoured to be leaving New Zealand for French club Pau following the Rugby World Cup. Whitelock’s brother Luke is already a member of the Top 14 team, thus he will be following in his footsteps by making the switch. Despite offers from France and Japan, the 34-year-old Test centurion decided to play for the same team as his brother because he wanted to be closer to him.
Whitelock has appeared in every match for the All Blacks at the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. He took over as captain for the All Blacks for the first time against Wales in Cardiff in 2017 and then again in the Steinlager Series in 2018 after Kieran Read was injured. With 143 caps under his belt, he might tie Richie McCaw’s all-time record of 148 by the end of the year.
Whitelock’s great-uncle Allan Elsom and grandfather Nelson Dalzell both played for the All Blacks, and Whitelock’s brothers George and Luke are all accomplished rugby players. His father, Braeden, played for Manawatu, and his brother, Adam, for the All Blacks Sevens. Whitelock was a member of the New Zealand Under 20 team that won the inaugural Junior World Championship in 2008, and he also played for the New Zealand Schools team in 2005 and 2006.
Whitelock attended Lincoln University in Canterbury after moving there from Manawatu, where he earned a Bachelor of Science. While playing for Canterbury, he made his provincial debut in 2008 and his Investec Super Rugby debut in 2010, where he promptly scored two tries. He reached the Super Rugby century mark in 2016 when the Crusaders played the Rebels in Christchurch, making his total number of games played for the team over 130. The Crusaders won the Investec Super Rugby in 2017 and 2018 under his direction.
The loss of Whitelock from the All Blacks will be devastating. He has consistently been a dependable leader for the club on and off the field. His absence will be felt greatly in the All Blacks’ forwards pack, since he is widely considered one of the best locks in the world.
Though his decision to leave New Zealand rugby is disappointing, Whitelock’s departure is not unexpected. In recent years, a number of All Blacks have defected in search of higher salaries and more exciting opportunities elsewhere. The New Zealand Rugby Union has made efforts to keep its elite players in New Zealand, although the union’s efforts have been hampered by the greater financial resources of European and Japanese clubs.
Pau’s addition of Whitelock will be a major boost for the French team. His presence will give the club much-needed experience and leadership, allowing them to better compete with the Top 14’s top teams. With Whitelock on board, Pau, which has been a Top 14 mainstay in recent years, will be seeking to take their performance to the next level.
To sum up, the loss of Sam Whitelock from New Zealand rugby is significant but not unexpected for the All Blacks. Many of New Zealand’s best athletes have given in to the allure of bigger contracts and foreign adventures. The addition of Whitelock’s expertise and leadership to the Pau side is a huge win for the French club. This shows Whitelock’s dedication to playing with his brother, as well as his legacy as one of the finest locks in the world.
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