New Zealand’s veteran lock forward Sam Whitelock is in doubt for next month’s Test series against Ireland after it was revealed Sunday he had played in the Super Rugby Pacific final with a broken thumb.
If Whitelock is ruled out, with the first Test only two weeks away, it will reduce the All Blacks to only three fit second-row forwards in their squad — Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett and Tupou Vaa’i.
Josh Lord had also been named in the All Blacks squad announced last Monday, but pulled out with a serious knee injury which will have him sidelined for several months.
The 33-year-old Whitelock, a veteran of 132 Tests, was one of the stars of the Canterbury Crusaders side who overwhelmed the Auckland Blues 21-7 at Eden Park on Saturday to claim a record 13th Super championship. He missed the Crusaders semi-final victory over the Waikato Chiefs the previous week with what was termed then as a “thumb injury”.
But when the team returned home to Christchurch on Sunday after the final, coach Scott Robertson confirmed the extent of the injury. “He’s got an incredible capacity to play through pain … to play with a broken thumb,” Robertson said.
“Last week he definitely wasn’t right because he never says he’s not right and he sort of hesitated. This week he was so on. He was a commander-general.” Whitelock, fellow Crusaders lock Scott Barrett and back-row forward Cullen Grace embarrased the Blues at the lineout in the final winning nine of 19 throws by the home side.
The first Test against Ireland is at Eden Park, Auckland, on July 2. The second Test will be played in Dunedin on July 9 with the third in Wellington on July 16.