Sam Whitelock back for one last crusade?
Sam Whitelock has been named to start for the Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Chiefs, his final appearance for the team, although he may not play.
All Blacks lock Whitelock, who has 143 Test caps and played 177 games for the Crusaders, is heading to French club Pau after this year’s World Cup.
Coach Scott Robertson admits Whitelock’s achilles injury could force him out of the final.
“We’re giving him a day to do it. So we’ll have to get him right to warm up (before the final) for him. He’s trained very well, did everything during the week and he’s look positive.
“He is great today, we will see how he finishes after training. Everything is strong, everything is good. But, we are remembering and prepared that he could not be there. We will give him every opportunity and Sam will call at the territory.”
This weekend’s Hamilton final is also the last for Robertson and All Blacks front five Richie Mo’unga with the defending champions, with the former moving on to coach the All Blacks and the latter bringing his talents to Japan.
Robertson has made just one change to the starting XV from the side that crushed the Blues in last week’s semi-final in Christchurch, with Whitelock starting at lock in place of Quinten Strange.
For the third week in a row, the front row is unchanged, with new All Black Tamaiti Williams, Codie Taylor and Oliver Jager anchoring the scrum. .
Captain Scott Barrett leads the pack from the green along with Whitelock, Sioni Talitui, Tom Christie, and Christian Lio-Willie.
Mo’unga starts at No.10 again, with Mitchell Drummond at half-back.
Another player who will leave New Zealand at the end of 2023 is All Blacks fullback Leicester Fainga’anuku, who will play on the wing in his last game for the Crusaders.
Former All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue is second at second with All Black Braydon Ennor at centre.
Dallas McLeod, another starter in the recently named All Blacks squad, is on the right wing, with All Black Will Jordan at fullback.
On the bench are George Bell, Kershawl Sykes-Martin, Reuben O’Neill, Quinten Strange, Dominic Gardiner, Willi Heinz, Fergus Burke and Chay Fihaki.
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