Rugby World Cup: Sam Whitelock's record-setting exploits take second place to All Blacks' need to beat Italy

Veteran lock Sam Whitelock will have to bring up his recordbreaking appearance off the All Blacks bench, as coach Ian Foster stacks his reserves for late-game impetus in their must-win pool game against Italy.

Desperately needing victory to avoid a first-ever pool exit from the Rugby World Cup, Foster has taken advantage of injury and fierce training-ground competition to name a bench that balances 467 test caps across eight players, despite promoting rookies Tamaiti Williams and Cam Roigard into the mix.

Whitelock will surpass former skipper Richie McCaw as the most-capped All Black in history with his 149th appearance, but will start the clash sitting alongside captain Sam Cane, stalwart hooker Dane Coles and regular starting prop Tyrel Lomax, with Williams, Roigard and utility Damian McKenzie rounding out the bench.

Sam Whitelock sits on the bench late against France.
Sam Whitelock sits on the bench late against France. Photo credit: Getty Images

While circumstances have conspired over the composition of his interchange, Foster has also nodded to the belief that strong All Blacks sides take advantage of late-game impact, but insists that shouldn't take any gloss off Whitelock's achievement. 

"I don't think it takes the romance out of it," he said. "This is a credit to Sam, every game he's achieving something new at the moment.

"He equalled a record last week, he's going to beat it this week, then he's got 150 coming up and then the most-capped All Black at World Cup. Every day is a bit of a statement of something he's achieving.

"We want to honour that, because he's earnt it, but I felt, as a team, we'll do our celebration of that achievement after this game. Right now, what the team needs to achieve is bigger than the individual, but it's very much on our mind and very special occasion."

Whitelock's relegation from the starting line-up, where he has formed a recordbreaking partnership with Brodie Retallick over more than a decade, comes as Scott Barrett asserts himself as one of the team's consistently best performers and hard to leave out.

That leaves Foster with the luxury of juggling three world class locks, while also accommodating Retallick's staged return from knee injury.

"It's the order we have for this game," acknowledged Foster. "I won't commit to saying it's the absolute pecking order, but we just feel that it's the right one for this game.

"We've got four locks who we feel we're pretty happy with their form. Brodie's obviously missed a bit of rugby, but played a little bit in that France game and against Namibia got 55 minutes, so we really feel he needs more time.

"Let's see what happens the next week or so."

Cane's presence among the reserves indicates his recovery from a back twinge has been slower than expected. He will make his first appearance at the tournament, after withdrawing late from the opening loss to France.

"Sam really needed to tick a few boxes during the first two trainings this week, which is why we gave him time to do that, by starting him off the bench," said Foster. 

Lomax is in the same boat, after suffering a deep gash to his leg against South Africa in the final warm-up at Twickenham.

As the clock ticks down on retirement, Coles has nudged powerful Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho out of the gameday squad, with Codie Taylor again awarded the No.2 jersey.

"Played well, trained well," reflected Foster. "I've been really impressed with Colesy.

Dane Coles in action against South Africa.
Dane Coles in action against South Africa. Photo credit: Photosport

"He's leading really well on the training park. When he's played, he's played really well and we just believe that composure later in the game will be good for us.

"A lot is made of Colesy and his fiery attitude, but he brings a lot of composure to this group, becaue he's passionate and he talks well. We've got three hookers that we're happy to start or be on the bench.

"We expect a lot of emotion out there, and the likes of Dane and two Sams to come off the bench and bring a slightly level-headed approach will be very important for us."

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