Luke Whitelock 'excited' to captain the All Blacks against French XV

  • 14/11/2017

Luke Whitelock's November was supposed to comprise a couple of games for the Barbarians and then home for much-needed break. 

Instead the workaholic No.8 found himself surrounded by journalists on Friday at the cavernous Parc Olympique Lyonnais, talking about becoming the 133rd person to lead the All Blacks.

Whitelock will lead a hugely inexperienced team against a French Selection on Tuesday in New Zealand's third tour match.               

The 26-year-old was still coming to terms with his dramatic promotion, having been whistled in as injury cover last week for veteran flanker Jerome Kaino.  

"It's a bit different, it's exciting and it's an opportunity for me," the quietly spoken Whitelock said.          

"Normally (the captain) is someone who's been around a while but it's not too unfamiliar I guess."         

Last month the 26-year-old led Canterbury to another NPC title.              

He was also co-captain at the Highlanders and wore the skipper's armband in their upset of the British and Irish Lions in June, a match in which Whitelock produced a storming game.   

He is nevertheless one of the most unheralded captains to wear the black jersey.           

His only previous appearance was four years ago when he was injected off the bench to face Japan in Tokyo.   

The brother of veteran All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, he hasn't gone looking for sibling support in the lead-up to the game.               

Instead he'll turn to halves Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Lima Sopoaga - two of the slightly more experienced members of the team - for shared support and decision- making.              

"It's a team game and we've got great leaders around supporting it so it's going to be more than one man," Whitelock said.               

"We haven't had a heap of time but everyone's just keen to get out there."      

Coach Steve Hansen admits he had a dilemma when the midweek team was finalised. 

"My wife asked me the same question. How does a bloke who's only had one game get to be the captain?" Hansen said.

"I said here's the team, you pick the captain.

"He's the one guy who's got the experience to do the job. Being the captain of a team doesn't come down to how long you've been in it.            

"He's a natural leader. He's been leading them for most of the week and it comes easy for him."