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Veteran lock Sam Whitelock cleared to plough on through thumb injury for All Blacks


Sam Whitelock enjoys the post-final celebrations with the Crusaders after their triumph over the Blues.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Sam Whitelock enjoys the post-final celebrations with the Crusaders after their triumph over the Blues.

After turning back the clock with a vintage performance in the Super Rugby Pacific final, veteran All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock is not about to let a fractured thumb halt his momentum now.

The 33-year-old, 132-test All Black played through a broken thumb to deliver a standout performance in the Crusaders’ 21-7 victory over the Blues on Saturday night at a sold-out Eden Park. He led a magnificent lineout assault on the hosts, nailed all eight of his tackles and made a couple of important breakdown turnovers for the Red and Blacks.

And he is now set to do something similar with the All Blacks.

ALL BLACKS

The All Blacks train at Trusts Arena in Henderson, Auckland, ahead of the series against Ireland.

“He’s got an incredible capacity to play through pain … to play with a broken thumb,” Robertson said after the team returned to Christchurch on Sunday.

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An All Blacks spokesperson told Stuff after a medical assessment on Tuesday when the squad assembled fully in Auckland, that the prognosis was encouraging enough for him to remain with the group with a view to playing a full part in the July series against Ireland.

Whitelock’s thumb was said to be “improving” and the plan was for him to look after it for a few days, after which it was hoped he would be cleared to play a full part in the buildup for the opening test at Eden Park on July 2.

Robertson lauded Whitelock’s contribution to a Super Rugby final dominated by the visiting forwards after he had been forced to miss the semifinal with the injury.

“Last week, he definitely wasn’t right because he never says he’s not right and he sort of hesitated,” Robertson said. “This week, he was so on. He was a commander-general. He worked so well with Scooter [Scott Barrett]. The performance was a throwback to his best.”

The All Blacks named five locks in their squad of 36 to face the Irish, but are already down to four after it was confirmed Chiefs youngster Josh Lord was out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured ACL.

Whitelock, Crusaders team-mate Scott Barrett, and Chiefs duo Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i are set to contest the starting lock spots for the opening test, with plenty of interest in the combination head coach Ian Foster elects to go with.

The All Blacks are spending the next three days in camp in Northland before returning to Auckland at the weekend to start preparations for the opening test.

Ireland shape as a real chance to secure their first test victory on Kiwi soil after defeating the All Blacks in three of their last five meetings, most recently in Dublin in November when they dominated the New Zealanders up front.



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