New Zealand 132-cap lock Sam Whitelock is in doubt for the July series against Ireland after it was revealed on 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 locks 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 was one of the stars of the Crusaders side that overwhelmed the Blues 21-7 at Eden Park on Saturday to claim a record 13th Super Rugby championship.
He missed the Crusaders’ semi-final victory over the 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 loose forward Cullen Grace embarrassed 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 2 July. The second Test will be played in Dunedin on 9 July with the third in Wellington on 16 July.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images